Note to Justice Alito: Leave Our Cultural Icons Alone!

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Holy hail, what’s this:

Last year Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. won praise for quoting Bob Dylan in an opinion (a dissent, actually, in Spring Communications Co. v. APCC Services.) Not to be outdone, apparently, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. today quoted at length from John Lennon.

It came in Alito’s major ruling in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, which redefined monuments placed on public land — such as a Ten Commandments monument — as a form of government speech, rather than private speech that can run afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Some briefs had argued that if a memorial was to be regarded as a message conveyed by government, the government ought to be forced to embrace the message through a formal resolution.

In knocking down that argument, Alito, 58, makes the point that public monuments can convey multiple messages, or messages that change over time. The Statue of Liberty, for example, came to New York as a symbol of friendship between France and the United States, Alito said, and only later became viewed as a beacon welcoming immigrants.

Similarly — and here’s where Lennon comes in — the mosaic in Central Park in New York City that displays the word “Imagine” as part of the memorial to John Lennon conveys several messages. “Some observers may ‘imagine’ the musical contributions that John Lennon would have made if he had not been killed,” Alito said, while others might think of Lennon’s song by that name, which imagined “a world without religion, countries, possessions, greed or hunger.”

Alito then drops a footnote that offers the full text of Lennon’s lyrics to the song “Imagine.”

You’ve got to be kidding me! Can’t you leave our treasured heroes alone? It was bad enough when Glenn Garvin suddenly became a book critic too when the Herald allowed him to trash Lennon a few months ago, now we have Justice Alito quoting “Imagine” at length? And Roberts quoting Bobby Dylan?

Please, stick to the musical icons that speak to you and the judges and lawyers you travel with — you know, like Pat Boone and Celine Dion.

Or maybe that great singer/songwriter, John Ashcroft.

But leave the cool ones to the rest of us.