Ten Commandments Back in Court

April 8, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Los Angeles Times


When the Supreme Court ruled 46 years ago that official prayers in public schools violated the 1st Amendment, it infuriated those who claimed that public institutions should reflect the fact that this is "one nation, under God" -- the God of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, that is.

In recent years, however, supporters of religion in the "public square" often have taken a different tack, arguing not that this is a Christian (or Judeo-Christian) nation but that individual believers have a free-speech right to express their religious views on government property. For example, the American Center for Law and Justice, a public-interest law firm founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, is "dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights."

What government may not do, the high court said as long ago as 1947, is "set up a church [or] pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another." Given that precedent, the state of Texas argued a few years ago that a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state Capitol didn't violate the 1st Amendment because it was part of a "museum-like setting" that featured other messages. Besides, the "driving purpose" of the display was to symbolize secular law. By a 5-4 vote, the court upheld the display.