U.S. Supreme Court Will Not Hear Case on Ten Commandments Display

Feb 22, 2011

Case requested Court to clarify Establishment Clause rulings


Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear a Ten Commandments case that was previously argued at the High Court in 2005, involving the “Foundations of American Law and Government” display (Foundations Display). The Foundations Display includes the Ten Commandments on two county courthouse walls in McCreary and Pulaski Counties in Kentucky. The original lawsuit was filed by the ACLU in 1999.

This denial allows conflicting rulings at the appeals court level to stand, three of which have allowed the Foundations Display and the Sixth Circuit ruling, which has refused it. The instant case turned, not on the Foundations Display itself (which courts have upheld as Constitutional), but on the motive for erecting the display. If the motive is religious, the display is suspect, but if the motive is secular or the government officials are silent, then the display has been upheld. This silly distinction makes no constitutional sense.

Other than this case, the ACLU has lost every challenge to the Foundations Display at the court of appeals since 2005. This case presented the opportunity for the High Court to bring sanity back to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, especially now since the makeup of the Court has changed since 2005, with Justice Alito replacing Justice O’Connor.

McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky was first argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 by Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law. In a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the preliminary injunction against the Foundations Display. The majority ruled that the predominate purpose of the government officials who erected two prior displays was religious. The Court sent the case back to the lower court for a full trial.

“The Ten Commandments have influenced American law and government and may be displayed in a court of law,” said Staver. “At some point the Supreme Court will have to issue a clear ruling that frees judges and lawmakers from the Establishment Clause purgatory created by its confusing rulings.”

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