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Ruling on City Park Monuments by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court rules today that a religious group could not force a city in Utah to accept its monument. The ruling was unanimous, with Justice Alito offering the majority opinion. The NY Times summarizes:

“The Free Speech Clause restricts government regulation of private speech,” Justice Alito noted. “It does not regulate government speech.”

While a government entity is quite limited in its ability to regulate or restrict private speech in traditional public forums, like parks, the government entity “is entitled to say what it wishes,” Justice Alito wrote, citing earlier Supreme Court rulings. If the people do not like what their government officials say or stand for, they can vote them out of office, he wrote.

Not that government, through its officials, can say whatever it wants whenever it wants, Justice Alito observed. For one thing, government expressions must not violate the First Amendment’s ban on endorsement of a particular religion. Moreover, what government officials say may be limited “by law, regulation, or practice.”

“And of course, a government entity is ultimately ‘accountable to the electorate and the political process for its advocacy,’ ” Justice Alito wrote, quoting from an earlier Supreme Court decision.

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