October 2005 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A federal appeals court has ruled that a Ten Commandments display on public property in Nebraska does not violate the separation of church and state.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 10-2 ruling, held that the five-foot-tall granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments in Plattsmouth’s Memorial Park does not amount to an endorsement of religion.

The circuit majority cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Van Orden v. Perry, where a similar monument on Texas statehouse grounds was found constitutional.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Van Orden governs our resolution of this case,” Judge Pasco M. Bowman wrote for the majority in ACLU v. City of Plattsmouth. “Like the Ten Commandments monument at issue in Van Orden, the Plattsmouth monument makes passive – and permissible – use of the text of the Ten Commandments to acknowledge the role of religion in our Nation’s heritage.

“Moreover,” Bowman continued, “as was the case in Van Orden, decades passed during which the Ten Commandments monument stood in Plattsmouth’s Memorial Park without objection.”

Judges Kermit E. Bye and Morris S. Arnold filed a dissenting opinion arguing that the Plattsmouth display could be distinguished from the one in Van Orden.