Ten Commandments display ruling stirs Kentucky debate

[JURIST] Kentucky lawmakers are bracing for renewed debate over public displays of the Ten Commendments after a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] upheld a display of the Ten Commandments [ruling text, PDF] in a Mercer County, KY courthouse in a ruling last week. The display, unlike other public displays of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky which were ruled unconstitutional earlier this year [JURIST report] by the US Supreme Court, was originally accompanied by other historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Writing for the appeals court, Judge Richard Suhrheinrich distinguished the cases because the Mercer County display did not demonstrate a religious intent or purpose, nor were the Ten Commandments more prominent than the other documents on display. His reasoning paralleled the Supreme Court's in another Ten Commandments ruling this year when it permitted a display of the Commandments on the Texas state capitol grounds [JURIST report] that included other historical documents and had existed for almost 40 years. Suhrheinrich denied that the First Amendment mandated a "wall of separation" between church and state, and contended that in similar Ten Commandment cases, a court must decide whether a reasonable person would find that the display is a government endorsement of religion, not whether a reasonable person would find it offensive. From Kentucky, the Louisville Courier-Journal has more.

The latest appeals court ruling makes it likely that the 2006 General Assembly in Kentucky will revisit the issue. Two state representatives, one Democrat and one Republican, have prefiled proposals for allowing displays of the Ten Commandments by the state government. Rep. Rick Nelson (D-Middlesboro) is calling for a constitutional amendment permitting displays provided that they are accompanied by other historical documents. Rep. Stan Lee (R-Lexington) proposes a display of the Ten Commandments in the state Capitol as part of a larger display of historical documents. AP has more.



 

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