- May 19, 2004
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
- Libertarian - Right
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed on government property goes before the Supreme Court Wednesday, in a pair of potentially landmark cases that test religion's cultural and legal status in American society.
The justices will consider whether displaying the ancient text represents state endorsement of religion, or simply recognizes and reflects the role that code has played in U.S. moral and legal traditions.
The Decalogue, as it is also known, forms a pillar of belief in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
"These are cases courts like the least; they stir raw emotions," said Charles Haynes, a religious liberty expert at the First Amendment Center. "Whatever they decide will be misunderstood; I don't think any side will be happy with the result. Even the winning side loses because of the deep divisions that will result."
Two cases will be heard, one from Texas, the other from Kentucky. Federal and state courts have been at odds for years over the issue, which gives the high court an opportunity to issue a definitive ruling.
In the Kentucky case, two county executives separately posted copies of the King James version of the Ten Commandments on the walls of their courthouses.
They were displayed among 11 frames of privately donated historical documents and symbols that helped form the basis of American law and government, including the Declaration of Independence. All but the Ten Commandments were secular in nature.
The American Civil Liberties Union objected and won at the federal appeals level. The counties then asked the Supreme Court to intervene.