WASHINGTON — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys say the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday on a case involving a religious sect's monument in Utah rightly distinguishes private religious speech and government speech issues.
"The Supreme Court reaffirmed that the First Amendment limits the government's power to restrict private speech on government property," said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. "The government does not endorse the religious speech of individuals merely by permitting it in public places."
ADF has defended the rights of churches, students, evangelists, and others to advocate their ideas without government suppression on the basis of its religious content.
ADF attorneys drafted a friend-of-the-court brief and filed it jointly with the Family Research Council at the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, ADF provided funding to enable two friend-of-the-court briefs by allied attorneys working with the National Legal Foundation and Fidelis Center for Law and Policy. The impact of the allied effort can also be seen in the court's opinion, where it cited a brief filed by ADF-ally Liberty Legal Institute on behalf of several veterans groups. ADF also provided funding for the case at the trial level.
The court concluded that the Summum sect does not have the right to demand that the City of Pleasant Grove accept its "Seven Aphorisms" monument simply because the city already has a Ten Commandments monument on its grounds. The court held that "the placement of a permanent monument in a public park is a form of government speech and is therefore not subject to scrutiny under the Free Speech Clause."
According to the opinion, the "legitimate concern that the government speech doctrine not be used as a subterfuge for favoring certain viewpoints does not mean that a government entity should be required to embrace publicly a privately donated monument's ‘message' in order to escape Free Speech Clause restrictions. A city engages in expressive conduct by accepting and displaying a privately donated monument, but it does not necessarily endorse the specific meaning that any particular donor sees in the monument."
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.