LATEST SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ON TEN COMMANDMENTS SEND
By Stan Griffin
Justice David Souter has said, "The divisiveness of religion in current public life is inescapable," but the Court seems to agree with the idea that "religious images are an undeniable part of public life."
For the first time in 25 years, the U. S. Supreme Court on June 27 handed down decisions concerning Ten Commandments displays on public property. To many they sent confusing signals. Nevertheless, their actions will stand. When the justices were polled, there were split-decision votes of 5-4 on each of two cases.
The room where the justices deliberate has a wall frieze (pictorial display) with 17 famous "lawgivers" including Hamurabi, Confucious, Napoleon, John Marshall, and Moses himself holding tablets (obviously the Ten Commandments although there is no visible writing).
The Court rejected exhibits in two Kentucky county courtrooms which had framed copies of the Commandments surrounded by other non-religious documents. Justices referred to county officialsí statements that their original purpose was to "promote religion."
As a counter-balance to that stance, the Court approved a display in Austin outside the Texas Capitol. A six-foot granite monument of the Ten Commandments inscribed "I AM THE LORD" is set in a 22-acre park with 17 historical exhibits. It was approved by the Court because it " ... suggests little or nothing of the sacred ... " (was) "portrayed neutrally ..." (was) ... predominately nonreligious and thus constitutional ..." (and is) " ... a legitimate tribute to the nationís legal and religious history ..." In addition, the Court pointed out it had been unchallenged for 40 years.
Ten Commandments displays around the country could be confirmed provided their chief goal is to glorify the nationís legal traditions, not its religious legacy. A second important element is the location chosen for the exhibition. Broad, outside areas will apparently get the "O.K." as did the Austin, Texas park.
What results can we expect from the Courtís actions? Many experts are looking into their crystal balls to answer that question. For one thing, we will probably see more lawsuits. " ... The rulings mean the battle over the Commandments is likely to continue in lower courts for years."
Cincinnati Enquirer, "Court Murky on Religious Displays," June, 28, 2005
Hamilton Journal-News, "Court: Some Ten Commandments Displays OK," June 28, 2005