Pleasant Grove City v. Summum

Pioneer Park (Park), a public park in petitioner Pleasant Grove City (City), has at least 11 permanent, privately donated displays, including a Ten Commandments monument. In rejecting the request of respondent Summum, a religious organization, to erect a monument containing the Seven Aphorisms of Summum, the City explained that it limited Park monuments to those either directly related to the City’s history or donated by groups with longstanding community ties. After the City put that policy and other criteria into writing, respondent renewed its request, but did not describe the monument’s historical significance or respondent’s connection to the community. The City rejected the request, and respondent filed suit, claiming that the City and petitioner officials had violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause by accepting the Ten Commandments monument but rejecting respondent’s proposed monument. The District Court denied respondent’s preliminary injunction request, but the Tenth Circuit reversed. Noting that it had previously found the Ten Commandments monument to be private rather than government speech and that public parks have traditionally been regarded as public forums, the court held that, because the exclusion of the monument was unlikely to survive strict scrutiny, the City was required to erect it immediately.

Held: 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. Pp. 4–18.

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