Monday, June 27, 2005

Supreme Court Allows Texas Ten Commandment Statue to Stay

The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a granite Ten Commandments statue in front of the Texas State Capitol. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled the monument to be legal because it is part of a greater display in tribute to the nation’s legal and religious history.

This ruling is in contrast to another ruling released today that invalidated displays of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky courthouses. Both rulings were 5-4 and the swing voter was Justice Stephen Breyer.

The Texas case is a good ruling, in my mind. The monument in question has been there for decades and really is part of a greater display representing other legal and religious symbols. In fact, the monument was donated to the state by Cecil B. DeMille as part of the promotion for the movie, The Ten Commandments. So it’s not even possible to say the intent of the display was religious. It was, apparently, promotional.

In the two Ten Commandment rulings, has the Court set an acceptable standard? My initial feeling is yes, although I need to read more about the rulings and think more about their implications. I like the fact that the Court declined to set an absolutist stance on this issue. I don’t think the separation of church in state should be treated with absolutism. We need boundaries but we also need wiggle room.

Today, like it or not, the Court created that wiggle room.

UPDATE: Due to misreporting by the AP, we initially said O'Connor was the swing vote in these cases. It was actually Stephen Breyer that switched sides between the two cases. We have corrected the error in our report. Breyer agreed with the ruling in the Texas case but did not sign on to the majority opinion.


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