At OS' More Liberal Than Liberal, Justin Schmidt picks up on a SCOTUS decision that is, to say the least, disturbing. To begin with, though a complicated Constitutional question, the decision was unanimous.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a Utah city can refuse to put a religious group's monument in a public park near a similar Ten Commandments display.
The justices unanimously sided with the city of Pleasant Grove, which had said a ruling for the religious group would mean public parks across the country would have to allow privately donated monuments that express different views from those already on display.
The Summun religious group, founded in Salt Lake City in 1975, sought in 2003 to erect a monument to the tenets of its faith, called the "Seven Aphorisms," in a park where there are other monuments, including a Ten Commandments display.
Pleasant Grove rejected the request, citing its requirement that park displays be related to its history or be donated by groups with longtime community ties, like the Fraternal Order of Eagles that gave the Ten Commandments monument in 1971.
The religious group sued and argued that it violated the constitutional right to free speech for the city to allow one message on public property while excluding another message. A U.S. appeals court agreed.
Justin is trying to figure out what this decision means.
This sets a precedent in which government will be the final arbiter of what type of permanent monuments can or can not be erected on private [I think he meant to type "public". Doesn't make sense otherwise. MA] property. I find it to be a very interesting decision. Does this separate church and state, or draw them closer together? Certainly it gives government slightly more regulatory power over symbols and monuments that might be considered a form of "free speech." But on the other hand, it promotes the principle that public consensus must be reached on such issues.
The first problem is in that last sentence. This is a Constitutional question, and Constitutional is not supposed to be determined by whether or not a local community agrees with its provisions. Nor are its strictures supposed to be eliminated in a community where the local govt claims to have "consensus".
The Constitution is there precisely to protect the minority from what DeToqueville called "the tyranny of the majority". This decision seems quite clearly to ignore that little problem in favor of evading the practical difficulties involved or, even worse, to favor of local community standards above the law. Theoretically, then, the SCOTUS just gave a city the right to determine which religions were and which were not welcome within its boundaries based on whether or not such religions can attract majority approval.
That's bad enough. Far worse is that not one current Justice saw that as a problem that outweighed states' rights and what the city's attorneys called "junk".
Attorneys for the city argued that the appeals court's ruling would require cities and states to remove long-standing monuments or result in public parks nationwide becoming cluttered junkyards of monuments.
The Supreme Court agreed.
So the Christian monument is there in a public park via the FOE. Other religions can go spit. They weren't there early enough. They don't have the "community approval". There aren't enough of them. They don't have a govt-approved community sponsor like the Rotary Club or the American Legion. IOW, "they aren't one of us" is a perfectly fine reason to keep some group from putting a symbol of their beliefs into a public park even though the dominant culture does just that in many public spaces and conservatives send up a howl of indignation that they're being persecuted if they can't jam their religious tenets into the lobby of a courthouse, which is the last public place they should be allowed.
And NOT ONE Supreme Court Justice has a problem with that? Not one?
Something's terribly wrong here.