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 The Ten Commandments

Legal developments: Year 2005 to 2008

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Read about events from other years

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Legal challenges and court decisions:

bullet2005-MAR-01: U.S. Supreme Court to hear two Ten Commandments cases: On 2005-MAR-02. the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases:
  1. McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky: Officials in McCreary, Pulaski and Harlan counties in Kentucky placed framed donated copies of the Ten Commandments in the halls of two county courthouses and one school building. Each is hung in a cultural display of 12 historical documents. Eleven of the documents are secular in nature; the Decalogue is the only religious document included; no other religion is represented.
  2. Van Ordern v. Perry: This involves a six-foot tall granite monument containing the Ten Commandments placed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol at Austin in 1961. It includes the words "Ten Commandments," the text of the Decalogue, a Star of David, a symbol representing Jesus Christ and the words "I am the Lord thy God." No other religion and no secular text is included.  1,2
bullet2005-JUN-27: U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Ten Commandments cases: On 2005-JUN-27, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on both cases. As in most cases involving religion or morality, the decision was by its usual 5 to 4 vote:
  1. The courthouse displays are unconstitutional because their purpose is clearly religious.
  2. Also on 2005-JUN-27, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, again by a 5:4 vote, that the Texas capitol display is constitutional because its context is secular. In the words of MSNBC, they are "a legitimate tribute to the nation's legal and religious history."

More details on these cases.

bullet2005-JUL-13: WV: Clay County commissioners vote to retain the Ten Commandments: The commissioners installed a copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall of their chamber some years ago. This was followed up by other documents, including the Bill of Rights. Jesse Sizemore, a resident of the county, has asked the commission on several occasions to remove the plaque. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter in 2004-OCT to the commissioners asking that the plaque be removed. No action was taken. The ACLU is currently considered filing a lawsuit. Andrew Schneider, executive director of ACLU in West Virginia said: "It's not as if we haven't decided that the Ten Commandments plaque in the county commission room of Clay County is violating the law. ... We are only considering how to deal with that violation. We view litigation as a last resort." He suggests that the commissioners would "face a heavy burden of proving that the displays do not convey, and were not intended to convey, the religious message that the Ten Commandments clearly represent." The first few Commandments require people to worship Yahweh and threaten dire punishment on themselves, their children, their grand children etc onto the third or fourth generation if they do not. The ACLU appears to suggest that this is not an appropriate message to give to the general public -- particularly those who are neither Jews nor Christians. Schneider continued: "There are many different versions of the Ten Commandments. The Catholic version differs from the Jewish version, which differs from the many Protestant versions - so how does one decide which version is best?  The Ten Commandments advocate religious beliefs that should be left to each individual. ... People should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own community because they might not share the dominant religious view. Religious freedom is alive and well in America precisely because government cannot tell us what to believe and cannot favor one religion over another."

Almost 200 people attended the commission meeting. All but about five favored retention of the display. 4
bullet2005-NOV-01: Ten Commandments Commission organized: Ron Wexler and Pastor Myles Munroe have organized a Ten Commandments Commission to promote the integration of church and state by restoring and expanding the placement of Ten Commandments monuments, plaques, symbols, etc. throughout America. They have declared Sunday, 2006-FEB-05 as Ten Commandments Day and have asked Christian and Jewish religious leaders "...to host special celebrations and/or deliver stirring messages centering on the Ten Commandments." 5
bullet2008-MAR-31: UT: Small religious group at U.S. Supreme Court: Summum, a UFO oriented group in Ogden, UT, was refused permission by city officials of Pleasant Grove City, UT to add a granite monument listing the group's "Seven Aphorisms" to an existing municipal cultural display of religious and secular objects. The display currently has two Jewish Stars of David, the Greek Letters Chi and Ro (the first two letters of "Christ"), the Ten Commandments, a (presumably Masonic) all seeing eye and pyramid, an eagle, and an American flag.

The group lost at lost at federal district court, and later won on appeal. The city has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has decided to hear the case. More details.

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Related essays on this site

bullet Ten Commandments legal conflicts in past years
bulletA detailed analysis of the Ten Commandments
bulletRecent U.S. court rulings on separation of church and state
bulletThe Istook Constitutional Amendment: 1995-1996
bulletThe Istook Constitutional Amendment: 1997-1999
bulletPrayer in the public schools

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References:

  1. "Join us! Wednesday, March 2 rally at Supreme Court..." AANEWS, 2005-FEB-28.
  2. Bill Mears, "Ten Commandments before high court. Explosive church-state issues from Kentucky, Texas," CNN,com Law Center, 2005-MAR-01, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  3. Antonin Scalaia, "God's Justice and Ours," First Things 123, 2002-MAY, Page 17 to 21.
  4. Kelley Schoonover, "Clay to keep Commandments on wall," Rominger Legal, 2005-JUL-14, at: http://www.romingerlegal.com/
  5. "The Ten Commandments Day," has a web site at: http://www.tencommandmentsday.com/
  6. "Circuit court rules for 'Aphorisms' as squabbles over religious sloganeering, commandments continue," AANews, 2002-AUG-1.
  7. Pete Yost, "Court Agrees to Take 2 Free Speech Cases," Associated Press,

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious LawsTen Commandments > here

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-MAR-01
Latest update: 2005-NOV-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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