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Summum Sues Pleasant Grove Over Religious Marker

Summum Sues Pleasant Grove Over Religious Marker

Posted - Aug. 3, 2005 at 11:54 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Summum religion has sued the city of Pleasant Grove for the right to display the other set of laws they say Moses brought down the mountain.

The city has refused to allow the Salt Lake City-based religion to erect a monument enumerating the Seven Aphorisms, or principles they say underlie creation and nature.

Summum leaders believe these were only initially passed to a select few who could understand them, but Moses also delivered a lower set of laws, the Ten Commandments, which were more widely distributed.

Pleasant Grove's memorial sits in a secluded area that honors the city's heritage. The monument has been on city property since the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated it in 1971, and Summum wants the right to put its monument of the Seven Aphorisms there also.

The lawsuit alleges the city's denial counters previous rulings handed down in 1997 and 2002, when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver agreed that Salt Lake County and Ogden City had created a forum for free expression by allowing the erection of a Ten Commandments monument on government property. Both cities eventually removed those monuments in response to the decision, leaving Summum with no public displays.

But that same standard applies to Pleasant Grove, Summum contends in its lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court here.

"The rights of plaintiff Summum are violated when the defendants give preference and endorsement to one particular set of religious beliefs by allowing the Ten Commandments monument to remain in a public park or in a forum within the public park supported by taxpayers and disallow a similar display of the religious tenets of Summum," the lawsuit says.

The city of Pleasant Grove didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

A June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court also supports the church's decision, said its attorney, Brian Barnard.

The high court in June struck down framed copies of the Ten Commandments in two Kentucky courthouses but upheld a granite monument outside the Texas Capitol.

The court ruled that exhibits would be upheld if their main purpose was to honor the nation's legal, rather than religious, traditions, and if they didn't promote one religious sect over another.

The 10th Circuit on Monday used that same Supreme Court ruling to reverse a judge's decision that the Ten Commandments monument may remain on Pleasant Grove city property. The court ruling in favor of the Society of Separationists sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City for reconsideration.

The 10th Circuit said the lower court needed to examine facts in the Pleasant Grove case in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Established in 1975, Summum keeps no official membership rolls, nor does the church collect offerings or accept donations. Founder Corky Ra has said more than 250,000 people have received its teachings.

The sect makes sacramental wines that adherents use to enhance seven types of meditation, including sexual ecstasy. Adherents believe mummification is better than burial or other after-death traditions, comparing their beliefs to ancient Egyptian creed. A pyramid in Salt Lake City serves as their temple.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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