For the second time in the past year, a justice in the U.S. Supreme Court has cited a 1960s icon in a ruling: Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. invoked John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” and the monument in New York City’s Central Park that display’s the song’s title, when ruling on Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum.
In his ruling, Justice Alito argued that monuments placed on public land should not be considered to be a form of government speech because they can suggest more than one meaning. Alito writes:
What, for example, is “the message” of the Greco-Roman
mosaic of the word “Imagine” that was donated to New
York City’s Central Park in memory of John Lennon? See
NYC Brief 18; App. to id., at A5. Some observers may
“imagine” the musical contributions that John Lennon
would have made if he had not been killed. Others may
think of the lyrics of the Lennon song that obviously in-
spired the mosaic and may “imagine” a world without
religion, countries, possessions, greed, or hunger.