Pleasant Grove City v. Summum

The Center for Inquiry and its affiliate, the Council for Secular Humanism, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, Case No. 07-665. Because of the unusual posture of the case, CFI/CSH’s brief was filed in support of neither party.  The case involved the request of Summum, a religious group, to erect a privately donated monument of Summum’s Seven Aphorisms next to a similarly sized, privately donated monument of the Ten Commandments that is located in a municipal park.  After Pleasant Grove City denied Summum’s request, Summum brought a lawsuit and ultimately obtained a favorable judgment from the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  The case was decided under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the appellate court’s decision did not consider the implications of the Establishment Clause for Summum’s claim. 

CFI/CSH’s brief urged the Supreme Court to craft a narrow ruling that expressly states that it does not address, and should not be interpreted as addressing, Establishment Clause issues, as such a ruling would leave open the possibility of removing the Ten Commandments monument from the municipal park on Establishment Clause grounds.  In February 2009 the Supreme Court decided that the Free Speech Clause does not entitle Summum to have its monument placed in the municipal park. Fortunately, the Court declined to address the underlying Establishment Clause issues. Only Justices Scalia and Thomas argued that a future challenge under the Establishment Clause should be foreclosed.

CFI/CSH’s brief was authored by attorneys from the nationwide law firm of Jenner & Block, with the assistance of Ronald A. Lindsay and Derek C. Araujo, in-house counsel from CFI/CSH.  The attorneys from Jenner & Block who worked on the brief are: Barry Levenstam, Matthew W. Alsdorf, Joshua A. Block, J. Andrew Hirth, and Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos.  CFI and CSH are profoundly grateful to these attorneys, who exemplified the best traditions of the legal profession by donating their time to work on this important brief.

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