Supreme Court Should Use Commandments Cases To Affirm Church-state Separation, Says Americans United

Disputes Present Justices With Opportunity To Clarify Law, Watchdog Group Says

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear two cases dealing with government display of the Ten Commandments.

The high court should use the cases to clarify the law and say unequivocally that the state has no business promoting religion, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"Religious symbols belong in houses of worship, not courthouses, city halls and public schools," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

Continued Lynn, "If government officials are eager to post something that deals with the foundation of American law, they need look no further than the U.S. Constitution."

The court accepted two cases today, one from Texas and one from Kentucky.

The Texas case (Van Orden v. Perry) challenges the display of a six-foot-tall Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol grounds in Austin. The monument was donated by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles and has been standing since 1961. It is displayed in an area that includes other monuments.

The Kentucky case (McCreary County v. ACLU) deals with much more recent Ten Commandments displays at courthouses in McCreary and Pulaski Counties. In those counties, officials erected framed copies of the Ten Commandments and later added other documents only after federal courts declared the commandments posting unconstitutional. The new displays were also struck down.

Lynn said the Ten Commandments is an important religious code to many but denied that it is the basis of U.S. law, as Religious Right groups frequently claim.

"Many of the commandments address religious and moral decrees, not legal mandates," he noted. "For example, it's not illegal to worship false gods or fail to honor the Sabbath. The government operates under the Constitution, not religious law."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in the safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.