Supreme Court Agrees to Review Two Challenges to Government-Endorsed Ten Commandments Displays

October 12, 2004 12:00 am

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ACLU Confident Justices Will Maintain Long-Held Religious Liberty Principles

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced today that it will take up the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on government land and buildings in two separate cases, including a successful challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky to a courthouse display.

“We remain confident that the Kentucky case is firmly in line with the principle that government should not promote religion,” said David A. Friedman, General Counsel for the ACLU of Kentucky, who argued the case before the appeals court.

“The Ten Commandments advocate believing in God, observing the Sabbath and not worshipping idols,” Friedman added, noting that different faiths have different versions of the document. “Those are religious beliefs that should be left to each individual. Especially in a courthouse, people should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own community because they may not share the prevailing religious view.”

In the Kentucky case, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ten Commandments postings in courthouses in McCreary and Pulaski counties “conveyed a message of religious endorsement” in violation of the Constitutional principle of free exercise of religion.

When the Court last considered this issue in 1980 – in a challenge also brought by the ACLU of Kentucky — it reversed a lower court ruling that had upheld a state law requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. Since that time, the ACLU and others, acting on behalf of local communities and religious leaders, have successfully challenged Ten Commandments postings and monuments in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and elsewhere.

“Given the amount of litigation surrounding this issue in recent years, it is not surprising that the Supreme Court would want to clarify often-conflicting rulings below,” said ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro.

The case is McCreary County v. ACLU, 03-1693. For more information on ACLU cases in the Supreme Court, go to

The ACLU is not involved in the second case accepted for review today, which involves a challenge to a Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol grounds in Texas.

For more information on the ACLU’s defense of religious liberty, go to

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