A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Federal judge rules Kentucky courthouse Ten Commandments display constitutional

[JURIST] A display featuring the Ten Commandments in a Kentucky courthouse passes constitutional muster because it does not promote religion, a federal judge held in a ruling released Wednesday. Judge Karl Forester of the Eastern District Court of Kentucky [official website] ruled against a lawsuit [ACLU backgrounder] brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky [advocacy website], finding that the display was part of an exhibition on the basics of American law and government. The ruling allows a similar lawsuit involving a Ten Commandments display at another Kentucky courthouse to proceed, because Forester was not convinced that other display was not intended to endorse religion.

In 2005, the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on government property must be determined on a case by case basis, but that displays which included the Commandments for their legal or historical value rather than for their religious significance were more likely to be constitutional. In 2005, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a display of the Ten Commandments [ruling text, PDF] in a Mercer County, Kentucky courthouse that was originally accompanied by other historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.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 noted that 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 when it permitted a display of the Commandments on the Texas state capitol grounds [JURIST report] that included other historical documents and had existed for almost 40 years. AP has more. From Louisville, the Courier-Journal has local coverage.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.