If a community accepts a gift of a large marker displaying The Ten Commandments, must it accept and display a gift of a marker with the tenets of a different religion?

The US Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that might decide the question.  (Nina Totenburg of NPR, reports on the case.)

Shown Summum Bonum Amon Ra, aka, “Corky,” with the Seven Aphorisms.

The city of Pleasant Grove, Utah, contends that just because it erected a privately-donated Ten Commandments monument in its public park, it does not have to accept a monument from a little-known religious group called Summum espousing its principles.

Summum claims that its Seven Aphorisms, or principles, underlie creation and nature and were initially revealed to Moses, but that these aphorisms were so far beyond the understanding of their time that they became hidden knowledge passed on only to a select few who could understand them.   The Ten Commandments, according to Summum, were a lower set of laws that Moses gave in place of the Seven Aphorisms.

Pleasant Grove’s Ten Commandments memorial sits in a secluded area that honors the city’s heritage. The monument has been on city property since the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated it in 1971.

In its lawsuit, Summum says, “The rights of plaintiff Summum are violated when the defendants give preference and endorsement to one particular set of religious beliefs by allowing the Ten Commandments monument to remain in a public park or in a forum within the public park supported by taxpayers and disallow a similar display of the religious tenets of Summum.

Moses, aka, Charlton Heston, with his Ten Commandments

Moses, aka, Charlton Heston, with The Ten Commandments

The Summum organization is based in a pyramid and mausoleum complex designed by its founder, Mr. Corky Ra, in Salt Lake City.  Inside the pyramid are the mummified remains of the members’ pets.

Mr. Ra founded the religion in 1975.  He was 30 years old at the time. He lived a short life. In January of just this year, Ra passed away at the age of 63.  Ra was born Claude Nowell, but in 1980 legally changed his name to Summum Bonum Amon Ra.  At the time of his death, according to his instructions, his body was sealed in a vat of mummification fluids and remained in the group’s Salt Lake City pyramid for six months.  During the time of his mummification daily rituals were performed in the pyramid.

Ra claimed that in the 1970s he had an encounter with “advanced beings,” that enlightened him and helped guide him in forming the Summum religion.  Summum is Latin for “the sum total of all creation.”  Ra wrote a book called,  “Summum: Sealed Except to the Open Mind”

An article in The Wall Street Journal quotes a religion scholar at California State University, Sarah Pike, as  saying that beyond its Egyptian trappings, Summum is a “UFO religion” with some ideas borrowed from Mormonism, the religion into which Mr. Ra was born. They are “very much under the New Age umbrella, with an interest in Gnostic Christianity,” she says. “The use of crystals, beliefs in aliens or UFOs, meditation practice and the turn to ancient Egypt are common in other New Age religions.”

These are the Seven Aphorisms of Summum:

  1. SUMMUM is MIND, thought; the universe is a mental creation.
  2. As above, so below; as below, so above.
  3. Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.
  4. Everything is dual; everything has an opposing point; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes bond; all truths are but partial truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.
  5. Everything flows out and in; everything has its season; all things rise and fall; the pendulum swing expresses itself in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.
  6. Every cause has its effect; every effect has its cause; everything happens according to Law; Chance is just a name for Law not recognized; there are many fields of causation, but nothing escapes the Law of Destiny.
  7. Gender is in everything; everything has its masculine and feminine principles; Gender manifests on all levels