U.S. Supreme Court Accepts Post-Argument Supplemental Brief In Kentucky Ten Commandments Case

Apr 4, 2005

Today the United States Supreme Court issued an order accepting a supplemental brief filed by Liberty Counsel regarding the repeal of a 1999 Resolution in the Kentucky Ten Commandments case of McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky. McCreary and Pulaski Counties are represented by Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, who presented oral argument on March 2 before the High Court.

The current display before the Court includes the Ten Commandments along with other historical documents presented in their entirety as part of the Foundations of American Law and Government display. The ACLU filed suit in 1999 after both counties posted a single copy of the Ten Commandments. Following suit, both counties modified their displays by adding additional historical documents, some of which excerpted only the religious portions of these documents. Both counties also passed resolutions regarding the second display. The district court found the second display unconstitutional. The current Foundations display was also subsequently found unconstitutional, and that is the display which was argued before the Supreme Court.

During the oral argument on March 2, 2005, Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter questioned whether the 1999 Resolution on the second display suggested that the purpose for the current Foundations display was unconstitutional. Prior to reaching the Supreme Court, the ACLU never contended that the prior Resolution should be used to invalidate the Foundations display. However, at the Supreme Court level, the ACLU focused heavily on the prior Resolution to argue that the Foundations display is unconstitutional. Following the March 2 argument, both counties repealed the 1999 Resolutions. The counties stated that prior Resolutions do not carry the force of law, and they had already assumed that they had abandoned them. The counties also reiterated that the purpose of the Foundations display is an educational display of some of the documents that influenced American law and government. The supplemental brief filed by Liberty Counsel advised the Court that the counties repealed the 1999 Resolution and advises the Court that three of the five elected officials in McCreary County have subsequently changed. Today the Supreme Court agreed to accept the brief and to include it as part of the record. The Court will likely render its ruling no later than the end of June.

Staver commented: "It is a good sign that the Supreme Court agreed to accept our supplemental brief, which addresses some of the questions raised by the ACLU for the first time on appeal. The Ten Commandments is a religious document that has also influenced American law and government. The Commandments have become a universally recognized symbol of law. There are more than fifty displays of the Ten Commandments in the United States Supreme Court alone. Displaying the Ten Commandments on public property is a permissible acknowledgment of religion. Such displays have never established religion."