The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case in its next term to decide whether a Utah city must allow a monument to be installed in a public park by a New Age group that promotes pyramids, mummification, and sexual ecstasy, Cybercast News Service reports.
This week Supreme Court justices agreed to hear a case involving a Salt Lake City-based religion called Summum, whose founder claims to have been visited by “highly intelligent beings.” The group, arguing on First Amendment grounds, has sought to erect a monument to its “Seven Aphorisms” alongside a monument to the Ten Commandments in a public park in Pleasant Grove, Utah.
Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court decision forcing the city to permit Summum adherents to install their monument.
Brian Barnard, the Salt Lake City attorney representing Summum, said he expects the high court to uphold the decision.
"It's a matter of simple fairness," Barnard said to Cybercast News Service. "If you allow one group to do it, you've got to allow every group to do it."
Summum, according to the IRS, is a religion that is virtually unknown outside of Salt Lake City and certain internet groups.
According to the group’s web site, Summum is based on Gnostic Christianity and Egyptian practices. It promotes as a funeral rite a modern form of mummification and advocates “sexual ecstasy” as a way of knowledge.
The religion was founded in 1975 by a former Mormon named Claude “Corky” Rex Nowell. Nowell said he received a series of visits from “highly intelligent beings,” or “Summa individuals,” who gave him higher knowledge.
Nowell legally changed his name to Summum Bonum Amon Ra. Amon Ra was the ancient Egyptian god of the Sun, while “summum bonum” is a Latin phrase meaning “highest good.”
Nowell is usually referred to as “Corky Ra.”
Summum adherents meet and meditate in a pyramid-shaped temple in Salt Lake City. They manufacture and use a wine-like beverage they call “nectar.” The group also uses a symbol of a pentagram within a pentagon within a circle, which they call a “Divine Logo.”
According to Cybercast News, the Seven Aphorisms that the Summum adherents wish to memorialize are: “correspondence,” “vibration,” “opposition,” “rhythym,” “cause and effect,” “gender,” and “psychokinesis,” which the group defines as the idea that the mind is the universe.
The attorney for the city of Pleasant Grove was pleased the appeal would be heard.
"We're delighted that the Supreme Court agreed to take this critical case," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing the city.
Sekulow said that the case did not involve the Supreme Court’s 2005 decisions on the Ten Commandments. In those cases the justices ruled that officials could allow religious displays on public property so long as the overall presentation was religiously neutral.
"This is not about the Establishment Clause. They have already lost on that," Sekulow told Cybercast News Service. "The issue is the freedom of speech -only, it's really about the government's freedom to speak."
The city of Pleasant Grove will argue that “mayhem” would result if every city, county, or state is forced to allow alternatives to be set up alongside government-sponsored monuments. The city has considered removing the Ten Commandments monument entirely.
"That's like saying, if you have a Veterans of Foreign Wars monument in a city park, you should have to allow an anti-war group's monument to go up, too," Sekulow said, according to Cybercast News Service.
Sekulow argued that if the court rules in Summum’s favor, cities with memorials to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will face challenges from racist groups citing the decision as precedent to have their memorials erected alongside those to Dr. King.