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Move of Ten Commandments monument ends lawsuit against Duchesne

Published July 10, 2009 6:39 pm

Free speech » Summum group took fight to display its own tenets to Supreme Court.
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After years of fighting, a lawsuit over whether a religious group has the right to install its Seven Aphorisms in the same Duchesne public park where a Ten Commandments monument stands has ended quietly.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball dismissed a suit filed by the Salt Lake City-based Summum against Duchesne City. The organization's battle to erect a monument listing its principles became moot when the municipality moved the Ten Commandments out of Roy Park this past spring and placed it in the city cemetery.

Members of Summum sued Duchesne in 2003 and Pleasant Grove in 2005 after the cities rejected their offered displays, proposed to be similar in size and nature to the Ten Commandments.

The cities' lawyers argued that allowing Summum's display would force municipalities to either remove long-standing monuments or give equal access to any group demanding it.

The lawsuits made their way to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a panel said the municipalities must allow Summum to put up its monuments -- and the only way around that would be to take down the Ten Commandments. Both municipalities then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 10th Circuit ruling.

In the Pleasant Grove case, the Supreme Court court ruled unanimously in February that the city did not violate Summum's free-speech rights when it refused permission to place a Seven Aphorisms monument in a public park.

The high court never ruled on the Duchesne suit, which was sent back to U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball in Salt Lake City for a decision based on the Pleasant Grove ruling.

Brian Barnard, Summum's attorney, said at the time that the Supreme Court ruling opened the door for another challenge, this one based on church-state separation claims. But the removal of the Ten Commandments from Roy Park eliminated Duchesne's practice of favoring one set of religious beliefs over others, he said.

Su Menu, Summum president, said the group never requested that religious monuments be removed from government property.

"Just as the citizens of Duchesne have benefited from the display of the Decalogue, so, too, would they have benefited from the display of our Seven Aphorisms," Menu said.

Summum -- which was founded in 1975 and is headquartered in a pyramid-shaped temple -- is based on Gnostic Christianity and encourages some Egyptian practices, such as mummification. The religion's aphorisms involve psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender.

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