Liberty Counsel Files Initial Briefs in Ten Commandments Case

Liberty Counsel, the group defending the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments display in Kentucky, filed Wednesday its Initial Brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is the first case involving the Ten Commandments the High Court has agreed to hear in 25 years. Justices will hear the case, McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, alongside another case involving a Ten Commandments display in Texas.

In the brief, Liberty Counsel argued that the Ten Commandments display included in the Foundations of Law display in the McCreary and Pulaski County courthouses along with nine other historical and legal documents is a historical document and not a government endorsement of religion.

“Whether alone or in a contextual display of law as here, the Ten Commandments are part of our history, have not tended to establish a religion, and are consistent with the First Amendment. It is undeniable that the Ten Commandments influenced American law and government,” said the brief.

The brief argues that while the Kentucky Ten Commandments display passes every Establishment Clause test created by the Court, the Lemon test should be replaced with a new objective test that “should respect our religious heritage by distinguishing between real establishments and permissible acknowledgments of religion.”

“One would have to rewrite history to conclude that the Ten Commandments played an insignificant role in American law. The imprint of the Decalogue on the development of Western law is undeniable, and on American law is indisputable,” stated Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, who is lead counsel in the case.

“However the Court rules, its decision will affect every Ten Commandments display in the country and may well set the future course for other governmental acknowledgments of religion, like the Pledge of Allegiance. There is a big difference between an establishment of religion, which the Constitution forbids, and governmental acknowledgments of religion, which the Constitution permits,” he concluded.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which also has a Ten Commandments case pending before the Supreme Court, filed on Wednesday a friend-to-the-court brief in the Kentucky case and also plans to file an amicus brief in the Texas Ten Commandments case.

“[T]he widespread and longstanding recognition by government and secular society of the Decalogue’s foundational role is firmly embedded in American culture…” states the brief.

“The history and heritage of this country is clear: the Ten Commandments played a vital role in the development of Western law and are part of the fabric of our society. The importance of the Ten Commandments to our legal system has been widely recognized throughout the judiciary – including the Supreme Court,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ.

Arguments in the case are scheduled for February 2005 and a decision is expected in June 2005.