December 22, 2014 · 30 Kislev

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Status of Current Law on the Public Posting of the Ten Commandments
The idea of posting the Ten Commandments in a public school or other public entity is a contentious issue to which the Religious Action Center remains firmly opposed.

Background
The idea of posting the Ten Commandments in a public school or other public entity is a contentious issue to which the Reform Movement remains firmly opposed. To see this sacred text used in political maneuvering is both inappropriate and distressing, and does religion a great disservice as a pretext for undermining the separation of church and state. Furthermore, the question arises as to whose version of the Ten Commandments would be posted since there are various versions for different faiths.

Supreme Court Rulings on the Ten Commandments
In 1980 in the case Stone v. Graham the Supreme Court struck down a Kentucky law that required public schools to display the Ten Commandments despite a notation below the text which read: "secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of Western civilization and the Common Law of the United States." The Justices held that the Commandments are "undeniably a sacred text" and that posting them has a religious purpose. Lower federal courts have struck down Decalogue displays at public buildings as well.

In 2005 the Supreme Court handed down two decisions - one in McCreary County v. ACLU, involving the posting of a framed copy of the Ten Commandments in local Kentucky courthouses, and one in Van Orden v. Perry, involving a monument of the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The Supreme Court issued a split decision on the acceptability of public displays of the Ten Commandments in these cases finding the Kentucky case to be unconstitutional because it inherently favored monotheistic religions but that the Texas case was acceptable because it conveyed both a religious and secular message.

Regardless of the 2005 Supreme Court split decision, the fact remains that a Ten Commandments display is generally viewed as a religious display and is therefore unconstitutional and a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.



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