Published October 21, 2004
WASHINGTON (BP) - The U.S. Supreme Court will take on the controversial issue of the public display of the Ten Commandments nearly a quarter of a century after it last ventured into that arena.
The high court announced Oct. 12 it would review lower-court rulings involving displays of the Ten Commandments on government property in Kentucky and Texas. Review of the decisions was granted separately, and oral arguments in the cases are expected to be heard in February, possibly on the same day.
It marked the first time the justices have agreed to such a case since 1980, when they ruled a Kentucky law requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public school classrooms was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court's willingness to return to the issue comes at a time when district courts and appeals courts in the federal judiciary are deeply divided. Four appeals courts have ruled in favor of Ten Commandments displays, while three appeals courts have decided they are unconstitutional, according to Liberty Counsel, which litigates church-state cases.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, welcomed the fact the high court "has finally decided it has to make a ruling. The Supreme Court's job is to adjudicate lower court rulings that conflict with one another."
Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, called the decision to review cases involving the Ten Commandments "long overdue." The rulings could be the "blockbuster religious liberty cases of the term," especially since they could involve the proper interpretation of the First Amendment, he said.
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