For the first time in history, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in two cases involving the public posting of the Ten Commandments.
The justices are scheduled to hear the case McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky and Van Orden v. Perry, and will decide whether or not the public display of the Decalogue is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment.
Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel will present oral arguments in the Kentucky case, arguing that the Commandments “played an important role in the development of American law and government and thus do not constitute a government endorsement of religion when exhibited in public displays,” said a statement from the law group.
The Supreme Court’s decision will affect every Ten Commandments display in the country and may well set the future course for other governmental acknowledgments of religion.
Liberty Counsel hopes the high court will adopt a new test for judging such cases. It’s proposed test “would find a permissible governmental acknowledgment of religion if the activity 1) comports with history and ubiquity, 2) does not coerce participation in a religious exercise or activity, and 3) does not discriminate among sects based upon religious character alone.”
Such a test would make a clear distinction between an acknowledgment of religion, which the Constitution permits, and an establishment of religion, which the Constitution forbids. The phrase “In God We Trust” passes such a test, Liberty Counsel notes.
Commented Staver yesterday: “Tomorrow, when I walk through the double doors leading to the Supreme Court’s chambers, I will see the Ten Commandments. The engraved Ten Commandments on the Court’s double wooden door entrance and the bronze gates to the side exits, or Moses holding the Ten Commandments in Hebrew script inside the chambers, have not established a religion. The Ten Commandments are a universally recognized symbol of law that has influenced our laws, our government and even our common vernacular. Displaying them in a courthouse is a permissible acknowledgment of religion and of the role religion has played in shaping our nation.”
Concerned Women for America said it was cautiously optimistic the high court would rule in favor of the Decalogue.
“The Supreme Court should be able to see straight through the bogus arguments of special interest groups whose only motivation appears to be erasing any recognition of God from our public life,” said Jan LaRue, CWA’s chief counsel. “Setting the Ten Commandments on public display is an acknowledgement of the cultural and legal history of the United States. It is light years from establishing a national church, which is what the First Amendment prohibits.
“Hopefully, the court will affirm the 5th Circuit’s ruling in Van Orden v. Perry and reverse the ruling by the 6th Circuit in the McCreary case. If it fails to do so, the next sound we hear may be that of a hammer and chisel on the Ten Commandments in the Court’s own building.”