Religious Monument Fight Headed For Trial

Pleasant Grove, USA - The question of whether the Salt Lake City religious group Summum can place a monument bearing its seven aphorisms in a Pleasant Grove park is headed for trial.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson denied Summum's motion to find in the group's favor without a trial.

Summum's attorney Brian Barnard said that the group first asked to put a monument in Pleasant Grove's Pioneer Park in 2003. Summum said it never received a response to the request, and the sect filed a lawsuit last year, he said.

Barnard said between 2003 and 2005 the city outlined certain rules regarding the placement of monuments in the park. The city said the rules have been in use for much longer.

Those guidelines state that the only people who can erect monuments on the city's property in the park are those with a long-standing or historical relationship to Pleasant Grove.

Summum has a temple, shaped like a pyramid, in Salt Lake City. But the group has no known meeting houses or members in Pleasant Grove, said Francis Manion, an attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice, which is helping represent Pleasant Grove in the case.

Summum was founded in 1975 and includes its religious practices include winemaking, mummification and sexual ecstasy. The group holds the aphorisms, or Summum's principles of creation, in the same regard as many religious organizations hold the biblical Ten Commandments. Pleasant Grove's city park has a Ten Commandments monument.

Barnard pointed out that the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which has only had a chapter in the city for two years, has a monument in the park.

When Summum wanted to erect a similar monument in an Ogden city park, a federal judge found in favor of Ogden without a trial. That ruling was overturned by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The 10th Circuit overturned the case, in part, because it saw Ogden's assertion that only historical markers could be placed near its municipal building as a last-minute facade meant to keep Summum out. Ogden later decided to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the site, rather than let Summum put its monument up.

Barnard said Pleasant Grove was putting up a similar facade.

Benson said Wednesday that he was persuaded by Pleasant Grove's submission of a declaration by a former Pleasant Grove City councilman that stated it has been the practice of the city to allow only monuments that have some historical connection to the city or are donated by someone with a historical connection to the city.

However, Benson told the attorneys for Pleasant Grove they've got ``an uphill road'' in proving what constitutes those long-standing ties.

Pleasant Grove, a city of 23,600, is about 25 miles south of Salt Lake City.