The Nacilbupera Guzzle

Whoever examines with attention the history of the dearths and famines … will find, I believe, that a dearth never has arisen from any combination among the inland dealers in corn, nor from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned sometimes perhaps, and in some particular places, by the waste of war, but in by far the greatest number of cases by the fault of the seasons; and that a famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconveniences of a dearth. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IV.5.44)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pleasant Grove City vs. Summum

This week the Supreme Court unanimously decided in favor of letting the city of Pleasant Grove disallow a monument by the Summum religion in the city's Pioneer Park. Nacilbupera has been monitoring this case and will continue to do so as it has local interest to us and far-reaching implications both with communities within and without Utah.

First some background. Pioneer Park is what I would call a small city park roughly the size of a half city block located in the downtown area of small-to-midsize bedroom-community town of Pleasant Grove. As a frequent driver in Pleasant Grove, I've driven by it several times but never really paid much attention (good drivers always keep their eyes on the road!) In light of the ruling, yesterday my sons and I paid a visit to the park as the Supreme Court's decision made national headlines this week. Amazingly they hadn't ever been to the park despite their relative proximity to their home (just over a mile). The park is dominated by some authentic pioneer log cabins including the first local school. While the buildings were closed for winter, a number of monuments had been placed in the park including a stone from the Nauvoo Temple. I photographed my sons with a monument located in the back of the park's southern half donated in 1971 by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles and quoting the 10 commandments; this is the monument cited by the Summum religion in their case against the city.

Summum is what I would describe as a religious cult based in Salt Lake City: cult because they are a small, non-mainstream religious organization which among things emphasizes sexual conduct including masterbation and homosexuality using a product they call Merh. Summum is one of a very few wineries in the state of strict-alchohol-regulation Utah and produces "Nectar" it claims to use in religious services within is pyramid-shaped religious edifice. Its leader and founder died last month. They follow a set of 7 Aphorisms unique to their cult (ie "everything vibrates") the way a Christian might follow the 10 commandments. While their is little commonality in Nacilbupera's values and Summum's I do admire their devotion to the mummification processes as has been documented by the science community including National Geographic. In summary, Summum has about as much to do with the history, culture, or values of Pleasant Grove as might Gnosticism, which is virtually none--for a wide majority of residents descend from Mormon pioneers to the area. To the residents of Pleasant Grove Summum is obscure at least and better said unknown, its followers few if any, and its value system at odds with theirs.

I can imagine the surprise from city leaders when in Summum requested in 2005 request for a monument equal in size to the FOE's Ten Commandments be placed in the park emphasizing their 7 Aphorisms: Summum who??? The city rejected the request and Summum began a court battle which was appealed to the Supreme Court.

In the court's ruling, the court recognized the right to "government speech" which is narrow and limited including restrictions against "offensive or partisan messages". However, it did leave open the question of whether the monument could be a violation of the establishment clause; under these grounds Summum vowed to continue the court battle.

What remains is the question why? Why did Summum choose to place a monument in Pleasant Grove of all places and then decide to back up the rejection of it in a court battle? My opinion is that they have extracted a plethora of funds from their sales of Merh and more importantly mummifications (pet mummifications cost $25K) and used the case as a way of advertising their cult. The decision to pursue the court case shows the mean-spiritedness of the cult and desire for self-aggrandizement which has, as pointed out, nothing to do with Pleasant Grove. Summum has received no grevience from Pleasant Grove: the city hasn't denied an application for religious building permit nor posted any form of anti-Summum communication. Summum has the right to post their Aphorisms in a monument on their own land. Yet Summum picked a fight and I applaud the leaders of Pleasant Grove for not caving in and spending the funds for this legal victory to preserve this small piece of heritage.

1 comment:

MeganWeiler said...


I am researching the case of Reid v. Reid involving your great-grandfather and great-grandmother and your great-grandmother's tragic accident at the printing press. I was wondering if you might have any insight into their feelings about the case? Why did they decide to pursue the case? How did they feel about the outcome? Did they have any regrets? Etc. It would be very helpful if you would be willing to contact me. I understand this is a strange request but I came across your blog while searching for information about the case.

Thank you in advance!