"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
- Charles Darwin

Feb 25, 2009

Alito Rules to "Imagine" No Religion

Image: Billboard by the Freedom From Religion Foundation

John Lennon was invoked as part of a unanimous decision today when the Supreme Court ruled against a religious group in Utah trying to erect a granite marker in a public park.
In a case involving the Salt Lake City-based Summum, the court said that governments can decide what to display in a public park without running afoul of the First Amendment. Pleasant Grove City, Utah, rejected the group's marker, prompting a federal lawsuit that argued that a city can't allow some private donations of displays in its public park and reject others. The federal appeals court in Denver agreed.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion of the court (pdf here) and stated that monuments do not fall under the First Amendment protection of free speech because "permanent monuments displayed on public property typically represent government speech" and that the religious group's argument "fundamentally misunderstands the way monuments convey meaning."

He then quoted the song "Imagine" as an example since New York City erected a monument with that word to honor Lennon's death.
Some observers may “imagine” the musical contributions that John Lennon would have made if he had not been killed. Others may think of the lyrics of the Lennon song that obviously inspired the mosaic and may “imagine” a world without religion, countries, possessions, greed, or hunger.
The entire song was then entered into the Supreme Court docket. So, in a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States we have the following opinion:

UPDATE: Summum is apparently a tiny religious sect founded by an ex-Mormon and is based on ancient Egyptian religious concepts. They even offer mummification for people and their pets (starting at the low, low price of $65,000). Doesn't seem any more bizarre than what's already out there in the name of religion. Incidentally, the park where Summum wanted to place their marker already hosts a statue of the Ten Commandments, which sort of sounds like an official government sanction of one religious belief over another. But what is it about Utah and their nutty religious cults?

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