April 2011 Church & State | AU Bulletin

In a defeat for the Religious Right, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a dispute over Ten Commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses.The state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union sued to block Commandments posters at the McCreary and Pulaski County courthouses. Both the federal district court and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the governmental promotion of the Decalogue. The high court’s refusal to take the case ensures the religious texts will not be displayed.The dispute is a long-running one. In 2005, the high court struck down Ten Commandments displays at the two Kentucky locations. The justices held in ACLU of Ky. v. McCreary that officials had an unconstitutional religious purpose in putting up the posters. On the same day, however, the court also handed down Van Orden v. Perry, a decision that upheld a Commandments monument on public land in Texas. The display there was on the same grounds with 40 historical and secular monuments, and the justices reasoned that the broader presentation did not send a religious message. Since then, the Kentucky counties altered their displays and renamed them the “Foundations of American Law and Government.” The appeals court said these changes did not matter since the motivation behind the displays was still simply to maintain the Commandments and send a religious message. “It is clear that these resolutions, like the previous statements of purpose, were adopted only as a litigating position,” the appeals court said. The Kentucky counties were represented by Mat Staver’s Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right legal group affiliated with Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University.