Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum case brief

Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum case brief summary
555 U.S. 460 (2009)

Respondent religious organization sued petitioners, a city and local officials, alleging that petitioners violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment by rejecting a request to erect a proposed monument in a public park. The district court denied the organization's preliminary injunction request. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed. Petitioners filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which was granted.

The organization requested permission to erect a stone monument containing the organization's Seven Aphorisms in a public park located in the city. The park contained 15 permanent displays, at least 11 of which were donated by private groups or individuals, including a Ten Commandments monument. The organization argued that petitioners had violated the Free Speech Clause by accepting the Ten Commandments monument but rejecting the organization's monument.


  • The Court determined that the city's decision was not subject to the Free Speech Clause because the city's decision to accept certain privately donated monuments while rejecting the organization's monument was best viewed as a form of government speech. 
  • Although the park was a traditional public forum for speeches and other transitory expressive acts, the display of the permanent monument in the public park was not a form of expression to which forum analysis applied; instead, the placement of the permanent monument in the public park was a form of government speech.

The Court reversed the appellate court's decision. 9-0 decision; 4 concurrences.

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