Read the Bills Act Coalition

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Statue of Tyranny?

From World Net Daily:

Coming to New York Harbor: Statue of Tyranny?
Court ruling leaves door open for any memorial on public property

How about memorials to Adolf Hitler, King George the 3rd, and other figures antithetical to the freedoms and rights provided citizens in the United States?
Any of those could be legally allowed on public property under a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
"It's very scary," Frank Manion, of the American Center for Law & Justice, told WND. "The Minutemen in Massachusetts? We need a Redcoat. A George Washington statue? Why not George the 3rd. A Holocaust memorial? How about a Hitler memorial?"
He told WND his organization, and the Thomas More Law Center, are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review – and reverse – the conclusion.

The ruling came in a pair of decisions out of the state of Utah, where Duchesne and Pleasant Grove both had appealed district court decisions that required the display of monuments such as the "Seven Aphorisms" promoted by an organization called Summum.
Manion told WND the district court rulings, and the affirming 10th Court opinion, essentially concluded that if a public entity allows the display of any monument funded by the private sector, such as Ten Commandments monuments paid for by various organizations such as the Eagles, other groups must also be allowed to display any monuments they would choose.
"In 1886, the United States government accepted from the people of France a donation of a 151-foot tall colossal statue called "Liberty Enlightening the World,'" the law firms argued. "Since that time, the government has displayed this Statue of Liberty in a traditional public forum in New York Harbor.
"For years, demonstrators with messages to deliver have assembled, handed out literature and otherwise expressed themselves at the site subject to certain regulations of the time, place and manner of their expression. But it probably never occurred to any such demonstrators that they enjoyed a constitutional right to insist that the government allow them to erect their own 151-foot tall statue or monument setting forth an alternative message to that conveyed by Lady Liberty," the law firms warn.
"Under the flawed private speech jurisprudence of the panel in this case … there exists no principled basis upon which the government could turn down for permanent display on Liberty Island a donation of a 'Statue of Tyranny,' or, perhaps, a new copper colossus bearing the message 'Pay No Attention to the Lady With the Torch – the Golden Door is Now Closed,'" the legal briefs argue.
"The panel in this case ruled that, once a municipality accepts a monument donated by a private party, the city opens a forum … for private speech. … The problem is that the prior … decision in 'Ogden' is wrong, it generates mischief, as the present panel decision illustrates," the firms argue.
"For once a forum is opened, viewpoint discrimination in constitutionally impermissible, even in a nonpublic forum," the lawyers said.
The 10th Circuit Court has rejected a request for the full appeals court to rehear the cases involving challenges in the two Utah locations. There, a three-judge panel earlier concluded that an organization that identifies itself by the name Summum has the right to erect its "Seven Aphorisms" monument in a city park because the cities already display monuments to the Ten Commandments, donated decades ago by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
Manion told WND the real agenda is to have government bodies remove anything that may have a reference to Christianity.
"This is a very troubling decision that left standing could alter the landscape of America's cities and towns by forcing local governments to remove long-standing patriotic, religious, and historical displays in order to comply with a twisted interpretation of the First Amendment," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ.
"This is a case that turns free speech and equal access on its head and ultimately would compel local governments to display privately owned monuments of any kind – a move that is not only wrong but unconstitutional," he added.
The law firms' briefs noted that the underlying problem is that when government allows private speakers to use its property, this is still private speech.
"But when, as here … the government acquires something from a private party, whether by purchase or donation, that 'something' is no longer private property. It becomes government property. And if it is a message-bearing 'something,' any communication thenceforth is government speech, not private speech.
"When a city museum acquires a work of art, it is the city that thenceforth makes the display (the message being, this is a piece of art we find aesthetically attractive, historically significant, etc.), not the creator of the work, who no longer owns or controls the piece. No competing artist can insist, with the force of a constitutional right, on 'My turn,'" the arguments say.
"And when a municipality decides to accept, and thus adopt as its own, a monument for display in a park (as here), on a city building's lawn (as in Ogden), or wherever, it is now the municipality's display (the message being, we think this monument reflects our history, or sends a valuable message, or will attract tourists, etc.). The private donor can boast of its contribution, to be sure, but the donor is no longer the speaker."
Sekulow said the ACLJ now is preparing a formal request to the U.S. Supreme Court to act on the issues.
Manion told WND such a precedent is just "insane." Once a municipality accepts and displays donated monuments, they no longer are "private speech for First Amendment purposes," the arguments state.
"As the Sixth Circuit recently opined… 'Government can certainly speak out on public issues supported by a broad consensus, even though individuals have a First Amendment right not to express agreement. For instance, government can distribute pins that say 'Register and Vote,' issue postage stamps during World War II that say 'Win the War,' and sell license plates that say 'Spay or Neuter your Pets.' Citizens clearly have the First Amendment right to oppose such widely-accepted views, but that right cannot conceivable require the government to distribute 'Don't Vote' pins, to issue posatage stamps in 1942 that say 'Stop the War,' or to sell license plates that say 'Spaying or Neutering your Pet is Cruel,'" the briefs argued.

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