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Posted: 11:16 AM- The U.S. Supreme Court this morning agreed to hear an appeal that seeks to stop followers of the Summum faith from erecting their Seven Aphorisms next to the Ten Commandments in a public park in Pleasant Grove.
Lawyers for the city argue that allowing the Salt Lake City-based religious group to put up its display would force municipalities to either remove long-standing monuments or give equal access to any group demanding it.
In a brief asking the high court to hear the case, the American Center for Law & Justice in Washington, D.C., which is representing Pleasant Grove, said those new monuments could include "an atheist group's Monument to Freethought" or a denunciation of homosexuals by Rev. Fred Phelps, a Kansas minister who stages anti-gay demonstrations.
Pleasant Grove is trying to overturn a decision last year by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said Summum could display its Seven Aphorisms in a city park that already had a Ten Commandments display.
The Denver-based court - which also gave the go-ahead in a separate ruling for a Summum monument in a Duchesne park - ruled that parks are public forums and restrictions on speech based solely on its content are forbidden except in narrow circumstances.
The two decisions overturned rulings by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson in Salt Lake City that blocked Summum's proposed monuments. In the Pleasant Grove case, the 10th Circuit said requiring the city to permit display of Summum's tenets will further free speech.
Summum had sued Duchesne in 2003 and Pleasant Grove in 2005 after the cities rejected its offered displays, proposed to be similar in size and nature to the Ten Commandments.
The Supreme Court is hearing only the Pleasant Grove appeal, but any decision likely also will affect the Duchesne case.
Salt Lake City attorney Brian Barnard, who represents Summum, said the 10th Circuit rulings were correct.
"It's a matter of simple fairness," Barnard said. "If you let one private group put up a monument in a public park, you have to let another private group put up a monument. You can't pick and choose."
Summum, which was founded in 1975, is based on Gnostic Christianity and encourages some Egyptian practices, such as mummification. The religion's aphorisms involve psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender.
Placement of the Summum monoliths have been on hold during the legal battle.