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Sixth Circuit rules against Ten Commandments in Ohio courthouse

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling barring the Ten Commandments [JURIST news archive] from being displayed in an Ohio courthouse. The display, called "Philosophies of Law in Conflict," includes two columns bearing the headings "Moral Absolutes: The Ten Commandments" and "Moral Relatives: Humanist Precepts" and was situated above a sign encouraging readers to ask Richland County Common Pleas Court [official website] Judge James DeWeese for additional information. The court rejected DeWeese's argument that the display is protected private religious expression and held that despite "replacing the word religion with the word philosophy," the display "sets forth overt religious messages and religious endorsements" in a public forum adjacent to a sitting judge.

The Sixth Circuit in June upheld an injunction against similar displays [JURIST report] in two Kentucky courthouses, finding that they represented simply another strategy "in a long line of attempts" to comply with the Constitution for litigation purposes and did not "minimize the residue of religious purpose." A month earlier, the same court denied an en banc rehearing in another case [opinion, PDF] involving the display of the Ten Commandments in a Grayson County, Kentucky, courthouse. The court found the display to be constitutional because it presented a valid secular purpose from the outset. In a 2005 decision, the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of a Ten Commandments display [JURIST report] in a Mercer County, Kentucky, courthouse. A 2005 Supreme Court decision [JURIST report] prohibiting an earlier attempt at a similar display in Kentucky prompted lawmakers to propose a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] to overturn it. On the same day it issued that ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that a six-foot-tall display of the Ten Commandments [JURIST report] on the grounds of the Texas state capitol was constitutionally acceptable because it had a secular purpose.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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