Religion in Society

Group Defends Display of 10 Commandments in Courthouse

| by Foundation for Moral Law

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and the Foundation for Moral Law, a religious-liberties legal organization in Montgomery, Alabama, filed a legal brief defending the constitutionality of a display of the Ten Commandments and other documents in a Kentucky courthouse.  Read the Foundation's brief in ACLU of Kentucky v. McCreary County, Kentucky here.

Judge Moore stated,

"The people of the State of Kentucky have the right and the duty to acknowledge God as the source of governmental authority and human rights, and no federal court has any authority to interfere with that right and duty."

In 1999, McCreary County and Pulaski County placed a copy of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses.  After the ACLU of Kentucky filed suit, the counties altered their displays by including passages from various documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Kentucky Constitution, President Lincoln's 1863 proclamation of a National Day of Prayer and Humiliation, and President Reagan's proclamation of 1983 as the Year of the Bible.  Nevertheless, the federal courts held the displays to be unconstitutional and ordered their removal.  (Click here to read the Foundation's amicus brief from 2004 when the Kentucky counties Ten Commandments displays were before the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Subsequently, the counties posted new displays which consist of nine documents of equal size, including the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner, the Mayflower Compact, the National Motto, the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, and a picture of Lady Justice.  However, the federal district court ruled that the impermissible religious purpose of the earlier displays "tainted" the present displays, and therefore the present displays are unconstitutional as well.  The counties have appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Judge Moore and the Foundation argue in their brief to the appeals court that this nation was founded upon an acknowledgment of God, as evidenced by the colonial charters, the Thanksgiving proclamations of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, and a host of other documents.  The First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," but a display on a courthouse wall is not a "law," and an acknowledgment of God is not an "establishment of religion." The Foundation argues that an acknowledgment of God--including the Ten Commandments--may stand alone without being surrounded by any other historical displays.  

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