Supreme Court Rules Against Utah Sect

Monument won't fly; public statues are 'government speech'
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2009 2:12 PM CST
Members of the Supreme Court await the arrival of President Barack Obama prior to his address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber of the Capitol in Washington , Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court today denied a Utah sect the right to erect a monument in a public park, settling a case that had serious implications for free speech and freedom of religion, the New York Times reports. Members of the Summum religion are free to espouse their beliefs in the park in Pleasant Grove City, but the First Amendment does not guarantee them the right to speak through the government, which the erection of a monument amounts to.

“The Free Speech Clause restricts government regulation of private speech,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court, which ruled unanimously. “It does not regulate government speech.” Free speech protection goes both ways, the court reasoned: Choosing which monuments to accept is part of the government’s right to express itself, which is protected from coercion by the members of Summum.