U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood barred the Kansas state government from displaying a large Ten Commandments tablet outside the Capitol in 2000 and 2006 but ruled this past week that a framed Ten Commandments display could go up as part of a larger historic exhibit.
The display of the Ten Commandments in the King James version will be included as part of the "Foundations of American Law and Government Display" comprised of 10 framed historic documents including the Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, the "In God We Trust" national motto, the Declaration of Independence, and the preamble to the Kentucky Constitution.
The judge's order last Monday came in response to a request by the administration of Gov. Ernie Fletcher to have the exhibit, described as having a predominately secular purpose, posted in the Capitol Rotunda. Hood clarified that the previous injunction did not apply to this display but declined to rule on the constitutionality of the display.
The Rev. Herschel Walker, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Corbin, donated the documents to the state last month in hopes of teaching history to Kentucky children.
"This is a great teaching tool to teach something about the foundation of our law and the government," he told the Associated Press.
The display is identical to the displays posted in the Mercer and Rowan County Courthouses and upheld as constitutional in past court cases.
Last year, the governor approved legislation that allows a 6-foot-tall granite Ten Commandments monument donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles to be displayed at the Capitol with other historic documents. But the federal injunction has prevented the monument from going on display.
The U.S. Supreme court has ruled that such displays are not inherently unconstitutional, and whether they endorse religion should be judged on a case-by-case basis.