Supreme Court Limits Religious Displays in Public

Religious unconstitutionality was not defined clearly, US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that public officials may not advance or promote religion.
( [email protected] ) Jun 29, 2005 01:22 AM EDT

Yesterday in Washington, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Ten Commandments displaying in Kentucky courthouses is unconstitutional and therefore must be removed while the Texan monument, also marked with biblical commandments, can stay because it is considered secular and cultural rather than religious.

On one hand, supporters of church-state separation cheered the rulings; “Everyone interested in religious freedom should want the government to stay neutral when it comes to religion,” said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American way.

On the other hand, Christian groups such as Christian Coalition of America responded to the Kentucky ruling with strong dissent. Its leader Roberta Combs called the ruling “tyranny” and said the nation’s top court once again showed that it’s “completely out of step with the American people.”

Justice Antonin Scalia opposes the ruling. He said that the United States is a nation founded by Christians who spoke about their devotion publicly and thus the court’s “often-repeated assertion that the government cannot favor religious practice is false.”

Since major American religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam believe only in one God, Scalia believes public officials “should be permitted to acknowledge this belief through public statements or displays such as the Ten Commandments."

“There is nothing unconstitutional in a state’s favoring religion generally, honoring God through public prayer and acknowledgement, or […] venerating the Ten Commandments,” said Scalia.

Mathew D. Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, who defended the Kentucky displays when the case was first brought to the High Court on March 2, said, “I think nobody can really say this (rulings) was positive on either side. […] We will probably need to come back to the court again to get a clear consistent majority opinion.”