The latest contest in a long history of debates over the presentation of monumental scriptures in public places is unfolding in Pleasant Grove City, Utah. As reported by the New York Times in the article "From Tiny Sect, Weighty Issue for Justices," a city park already has a Ten Commandments monument (donated in 1971 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles) that the town's mayor, Michael W. Daniels, explains as representing "law and history" (but not religion).
Now a religious group called Summum would like to donate a similar monument displaying the Seven Aphorisms that guide the group's theology. Pleasant Grove City did not accept the donation, and the resulting lawsuits have reached the U.S. Supreme Court level. At stake are issues of free speech and freedom of religion in public spaces, and whether a public park that displays the texts of some religions ought to display the texts of other religions as well (if their members choose to donate such monuments). As with other disputes over Ten Commandments monuments, this goes far beyond the text itself, and the physical presence of the monument takes on the weight of Constitutional law; the acceptance (or lack thereof) of a particular religion; and the identity politics of the city, state, and nation.
Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)