Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Church and State

This fall the United States Supreme Court will hear a case that is certain to spark the return of church-state tension in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum. Unlike earlier cases, the issue in Pleasant Grove City is not whether a Ten Commandments display in a public setting is legal. Rather, the Court will decide whether a local government may refuse to display an "Aphorisms" statue donated by the religious sect Summum when the city already displays a donated Ten Commandments monument. The "Aphorisms" statue displays the principle beliefs of the sect.

Summum sued, claiming that the government's refusal to display its statue in the park was a violation of its right to free speech. The Court has held in earlier cases that public officials may not discriminate against groups in public parks because of their messages or religion. The Tenth Circuit applied the free speech test and required the city to either display all religious monuments donated by third parties or display none of the donated monuments.

With concerns that the Tenth Circuit decision will require the removal of historic religious displays, both local governments and religious groups will be closely watching this case. We should be praying.

Summum originated in the fall of 1975 when Claude Rex Nowell began to have a series of encouters with highly intelligent spiritual beings. As a result this religous sect developed a gnostic approach to life. That is they believe in order to free yourself from the inferior material world, one needs gnosis, or spiritual knowledge available to all through direct experience or knowledge (gnosis) of God. This knowledge is generally found inside one's self. Their mission is "To help you liberate and emancipate you from yourself and turn you into an Overcomer".

For a short video review of the case click here.

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