Thursday, February 26, 2009

Supreme Court rules that tax-payer funded religion is not subject to the First Amendment

From the New York Times

A public park in Utah that includes a monument to the Ten Commandments need not make room for a similar monument reflecting the beliefs of an unusual religion called Summum, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

Permanent monuments in public parks are not subject to the free speech analysis that applies to speeches and leaflets in public forums, the court ruled. Instead, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for eight justices, such monuments are “best viewed as a form of government speech.”

Since the government is free to say what it likes, Justice Alito said, the Summum church’s right to free speech under the First Amendment was not violated by the city’s rejection of its monument.
Look, I'm not in any position to comment on the legal legitimacy of the decision, but if you're declaring that government speech is not subject to the First Amendment, you're opening the door for the government promotion of religion, which is expressly prohibited by that very amendment. The government is not free to say what it wants. Public parks are tax-payer funded spaces that should not be in the business of respecting an establishment of religion. As James Madison put it, religion should be "wholly exempt from [government's] cognizance."

The Summum monument need not go up, but the Ten Commandments monument needs to come down.

Ed Brayton explains why he thinks this will ultimately be a good thing. I generally agree with him, although I think it will depend on the future composition of the court.

No comments: