ADL Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Reject Government Display of the Ten Commandments as Unconstitutional
Update: On June 27, 2005, the Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses in a 5-4 decision. A related decision upheld the constitutionality of a large granite Ten Commandments monument on the Texas Capitol grounds. More
New York, NY, December 13, 2004 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the government-sponsored display of the Ten Commandments on public property as unconstitutional and a violation of separation of church and state.
Joined by Dr. Philip A. Cunningham, a highly respected theologian and the executive director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the League submitted an amicus curiae brief in two cases dealing with the display of the Ten Commandments on government property.
In the brief, ADL and Dr. Cunningham argue that the Ten Commandments are an inherently religious text that cannot convey a merely secular message. The brief's discussion of religious sources and scholarship underscores how the Ten Commandments are a vital expression of religious identity and symbolism – albeit one that is far from uniform or free of controversy.
"The notion that there is a one-size-fits-all Ten Commandments at the heart of American law and society is convenient, but not really true," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "There is no way to pick one version of the Ten Commandments, display it and say that this represents American secular tradition. In doing so, you are not respecting people who are not Jewish or Christian, or who come from other religious traditions."
The Court has agreed to hear cases from Texas and Kentucky dealing with the display of the Ten Commandments. The Texas case, Van Orden v. Perry, challenges the display of a six-foot-tall monument on the state capitol grounds in Austin. The Kentucky case, McCreary County v. ACLU, challenges the display of framed copies of the Ten Commandments in public courthouses.
ADL's brief argues that the displays, "either promote one religion's view of the Ten Commandments, ignoring the beliefs of others; or they homogenize the Ten Commandments, thereby giving official sanction to minimizing the divergent yet fundamentally religious beliefs of both Jews and Christians regarding this sacred text." The brief was prepared by Jeffrey R. Babbin, Aaron S. Bayer and Kenneth D. Heath of Wiggin and Dana LLP, of New Haven, Connecticut.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.