How to apply the First Amendment to the Ten Commandments? Why does the Constitution's prohibition of "establishment of religion" so often seem to conflict with its mandate of "free exercise of religion." Legal and religious scholars seem to agree on what the law says
, but no one seems to know for sure how it should be applied case by case.
Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court will offer some clarity this year.
The 5-3 vote by the Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee comes a week before the high court is scheduled to discuss
what to do about a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Haskell County (Okla.) Courthouse.
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Oklahoma display violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. (A federal judge had ruled that it didn't.) That case should not be confused with last month's decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that a Ten Commandments monument at the Grayson County (Ky.) Courthouse did not violate the Establishment Clause. (A federal judge had ruled that it did.)
But don't blame the lower courts for being confused. In 2005, the Supremes issued two seemingly contradictory rulings on similar public displays of the Decalogue:
The court ruled 5-4 in favor
of a Ten Commandments display at the Texas State Capitol. "The inclusion of the Ten Commandments monument in this group has a dual significance, partaking of both religion and government," the majority wrote.
The court also ruled 5-4 against
a Ten Commandments monument at a Kentucky courthouse (McCreary County). The majority held that the government had acted with "the ostensible and predominant purpose of advancing