Editors' Note: Every month, Townhall Magazine highlights some of the outstanding blogs written by users in our community. The following is an entry from Randy DeSoto and appears in the May issue of Townhall Magazine.
Lady Liberty needn’t fear a Statue of Tyranny will soon be cozying up next to her any time soon. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous 9-0 decision, ruled that governments can choose which monuments they will display on public lands, including those with religious content like the Ten Commandments, without being forced to also display monuments from those with differing views.
The case, Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, wound its way to the Supreme Court last fall after the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the religious group Summum. The group sued two communities in Utah, demanding that the communities accept and display monuments of their Seven Aphorisms next to donated monuments of the Ten Commandments currently in the towns’ public parks. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Summum, stating that, if communities wanted to display the Ten Commandments or similar monuments, they must be willing to accept all comers.
Atheist groups loved this ruling, because it would have the likely effect of forcing the removal of all monuments with religious content. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Van Orden v. Perry, that the Ten Commandments are a part of the nation’s religious heritage and legal tradition and have been vital in shaping United States culture; therefore, Texas was within its purview to include the monument on its Statehouse grounds.
The Supreme Court, in Summum, has now added to its 2005 Texas Statehouse ruling, providing that not only can governments display the Ten Commandments and other monuments with religious content, they can choose which displays will go on public property and which will not—as they always have. This power does not impinge on peoples’ First Amendment free speech rights: They are free to say and write about what they want and assemble and advocate and protest in public places, including city parks; they just don’t have the power to force governments to accept permanent displays. The Court added that if the government literally had to accept and accommodate all viewpoints as being equal, it would cease to be able to function.
The Founding Fathers argued in the Declaration of Independence that, based on the “laws of nature and Nature’s God,” the British government had become a tyranny because it was failing to secure those inalienable rights endowed by the “Creator.” The laws of nature are those observable in nature, while the laws of Nature’s God are those recorded in scripture and include the Ten Commandments. The belief in God’s overarching laws and the corresponding rights they create has been a vital part of the American political experience, and it should continue to be recognized by the government.
The Supreme Court’s Summum ruling enables governments to continue to help us remember these foundational beliefs without having to give equal space and status on public lands to those who want to erect monuments saying there is no God or truth or rights endowed by a Creator.