A Monumental Discussion

The Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on state property.

The Supreme Court heard arguments this morning on this term’s most contentious issue: Can the Ten Commandments be displayed on public property? As Laura Hodes observed in a December 2002 “Decalogical” slide show, the constitutionality of such displays has been fuzzy. “For any Decalogue to survive a constitutional challenge, a court must find it has a ‘secular purpose’ and that a ‘reasonable observer’ would not view its ‘primary effect’ as ‘endorsing religion,’” Hodes wrote. Her slide show takes you across the nation to see some of the constitutional and unconstitutional Ten Commandments displays, including the DeMille monument on Texas capitol grounds and the Spirit of Justice statue in the U.S. Justice Department.

In October 2004, Rod Smolla explained, “Why the Ten Commandments make for such messy law.” Christopher Hitchens argued for the “Immorality of the Ten Commandments” in his August 2003 article. That same month, Dahlia Lithwick delved into the why the Constitution is so murky about religion and the state in “Thou Shalt Not Pray.”