Today the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause does not require the government of Pleasant Grove City, Utah, to allow the erection of a monument to the Seven Aphorisms of Summum in a public park that is already the site of a donated monument honoring the Ten Commandments. The Summum sect had argued that the government violates the right to freedom of speech when it picks and chooses among donated monuments based on the ideas they express. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit agreed, to the horror of local and state officials throughout the nation, who began imagining a proliferation of silly, offensive, and hideous monuments on every patch of public land where a donated display has been allowed. The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, said the 10th Circuit did not frame the issue correctly: The Ten Commandments monument, which was provided by Fraternal Order of the Eagles, should be seen as government speech, not private speech in a public forum. Since "the Free Speech Clause restricts government regulation of private speech" and "does not regulate government speech," Alito said, it is not violated by a monument policy of "selective receptivity."
Now that the Court has definitively said that it's the government endorsing the Ten Commandments, the obvious question is whether that message amounts to an establishment of religion, thereby violating a different clause of the First Amendment. Pleasant Grove City officials apparently tried to avoid that issue by disclaiming the speech as their own.