13 Nov 2008

Monumental Insanity

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Duck!

If I were to follow the examples of Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, or Barack Obama, and invent my own religion, could I demand that the nearest municipality boasting a Ten Commandments monument allow me to erect another monument listing my own teachings on the courthouse lawn? Should the city fathers fail to oblige would a federal circuit court of appeals (that isn’t the 9th Circuit) rule in my favor? Is it possible to imagine that the United States Supreme Court could wind up ruling on my petition?

The Wall Street Journal reports that it has all worked out just that way for Corky Ra.

A couple of decades after a visit from “beings Extraterrestrial” inspired him to found the Church of Summum in 1975, Summum Bonum Amen Ra, born Claude Nowell and known as Corky, had another epochal encounter. He saw a monolith depicting the Ten Commandments on the courthouse grounds in Salt Lake City, says Su Menu, the Summum religion’s current leader, and “felt it would be nice to have the Seven Aphorisms next to them.” The monument would be inscribed with the principles that, according to Summum doctrine, Moses initially intended to deliver to the Hebrews before deciding they weren’t ready to understand them.

Several Utah municipalities Mr. Ra approached declined the opportunity to display the Seven Aphorisms, provoking a legal battle that arrived at the Supreme Court Wednesday.

Daniel Henniger editorializes:

In 2007, the federal appeals court for the Tenth Circuit ruled in favor of Summum, giving the religion permission to put up its Seven Aphorisms monument in Pioneer Park. The Supreme Court will decide whether the Summums of America deserve their own patch of the public green.

Laughable though it looks, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum is a textbook example of tensions that have pulled our courts between noble readings of the Constitution — in this case, the First Amendment’s speech protections — and what the average person might call the common-sense requirements of running a civil society.

Henniger is perfectly correct. Modern liberalism’s abject inability to resist any appeal couched in idealistic rhetoric gives it a terminable case of philosophic round heels.

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David Iams

The New York Times broke this story, nationally at least, and followed up with a strident editorial supporting Summum. Implicit in the NYT editorial was that, if Summum, founded in 1975, can not put up its “aphorisms” monument, then the 10 Commandments should be taken down, too. (Many NYT readers posted comments to the editorial supporting it). It is hard to believe that no one has used the word “frivolous” for Summum’s suit, given that the “aphorisms” include “as above, so below” – hardly on on a par with “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Up to now, however, the Summum-ists have been taken seriously. David Iams.



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