Friday, November 14, 2008

Summum: Minority Religions, Public Space, and Religious Liberty

Over the last few weeks I've heard news broadcasts about a minority religious group in Salt Lake City that has made national headlines, but until yesterday I had not heard the group's name. Yesterday I finally heard the group identified as Summum, a group readers may never have heard of before. I only became aware of this group in November of last year through Gordon Melton. There is very little that has been written academicaly about this group, and this fact, coupled with the current legal issues the group is involved in, make it an item of great interest.
As Summum's website describes the group:

"In the fall of 1975, Claude "Corky" Rex Nowell (Founder) began to have a series of encounters with highly intelligent beings who he now refers to as the Summa Individuals. He describes them as beings who untiringly work the pathways of spiritual evolution, and who were referred to as the "Neters" in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. During his encounters, he received instructions concerning the underlying principles (Laws of Nature) which establish and maintain the universe. During these same encounters, the Summa Individuals would change his name to:

Summum Bonum (Amon) Ra

Soon after his
initial experience, Corky founded a non-profit organization, giving it the name "Summum," a Latin term meaning "the sum total of all creation." The principles introduced to him were described as a "neverending story" and form the foundation for the philosophy of Summum. They are nothing new and have always existed. As an eternal work, these principles were presented to Corky who in 1980, would legally change his name to Summum Bonum Amon Ra for governmental purposes and to reflect his spiritual path. He generally goes by Corky Ra."

Summum has made national headlines through a legal challenge currently before the Supreme Court. As the Salt Lake Tribune has described it, the Court "agreed to hear an appeal from the city of Pleasant Grove, which wants to block Summum from displaying its own monument beside the Ten Commandments in a municipal park. That monument, if erected, would include Summum's seven guiding principles."
This case involving issues of religious freedoms in the public square in relation to a minority religion is one to watch, with commentators suggesting that the ruling will be significant, and set precedent for similar issues related to public religious displays. The Supreme Court will likely rule on this case in the spring.

1 comment:

Matt Stone said...

You're right, never heard of them before. Interesting implications if they win.