Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Supreme Court Rules on Summum Case

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled against Summum, a religious group based in Utah, in a lawsuit involving the city of Pleasant Grove which had been ordered to allow Summum to place a religious display alongside the city’s Ten Commandments monument in a local park.[1] In their ruling, the Supreme Court said that city municipalities can decide what should be allowed in public parks without their being a conflict with the First Amendment. Summum, from a Latin term meaning “the sum total of all creation,”[2] finds its origins in founder Claude Rex Nowell in 1975 who claimed to have encounters with intelligent beings who “work the pathways of spiritual evolution.”[3] Nowell would later change his name to Summum Bonum Amon Ra. Summum philosophy includes seven Principles of creation aimed at helping the individual integrate existence, worship within pyramids, and meditation, all designed to lead to the goal of the religion: “Awakening you to your spirit is what Summum considers to be genuine religion.”[4] The group has also attracted media attention with its incorporation of mummification processes which were introduced in the 1980s.


[1] “Supreme Court rules against Summum in Ten Commandments Case,” The Salt Lake Tribune, February 25, 2008,
[2] Jessica Ravitz, “Summum: A glimpse inside,” The Salt Lake Tribune, November 12, 2008,, accessed November 13, 2008.
[3] “Welcome to Summum!”, Summum website,, accessed October 3, 2007.
[4] Ibid.

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