Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Ten Commandments

No, not the movie, the original ten edicts from Mount Sinai This week, March 2, 2005, The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two companion cases about whether governmental displays of the Ten Commandments (not the original) violate The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

For an excellent history of these two cases, and their factual basis, please review A Monumental Decision written by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The essential question is whether the governmental display of these monuments amounts to governments' endorsement of The Commandments' religious message.

The reason the high Court agreed to hear this case, is that two lower federal appellate courts issued conflicting opinions about whether such a display amounts to the governmental endorsement of a religious message, therefore violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. These courts were the fifth and sixth circuit court courts of appeal.

The fifth circuit upheld the presence of a stone monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments on the State Capitol Grounds. The sixth circuit, held that the posting of the Ten Commandments in the county courthouses of McCreary and Pulaski Counties in Kentucky, was to achieve a religious purpose and thereby violated The Establishment Clause. As a result of this split of authority between these two federal appellate court, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear their respective appeals, and decide what the law is with respect to this particular issue. The Supreme Court will often take cases which present significant federal questions, and about which, as here, there are conflicting legal opinions from different courts.

The high court's decision will probably not be published until the end of its term, likely in June, 2005. I will post the link to its final decision, and provide my legal analysis and observations. I welcome your comments as well, both now and then.


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