Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – through its Institute for Public Affairs, welcomed this morning’s pair of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court finding public displays of the Ten Commandments to be constitutional when displayed in an appropriate context.
The UOJCA had joined with other national Orthodox Jewish organizations in filing a “friend of the court” brief with the Court in this case urging the court to uphold the public display of the text of what is popularly known as “the Ten Commandments.” The brief, filed in the case from Texas of Van Orden v. Perry under the aegis of the National Jewish Coalition on Law & Public Affairs, was principally authored by Washington attorney and Institute board member Nathan Lewin and can be viewed at https://advocacy.ou.org:443/
The amicus brief recognized that critical element which determines the constitutionality of public displays of the Ten Commandments, and similar religiously rooted symbols, is the context in which they are displayed. The brief opposed the actions of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Kentucky case which, in the words of the brief “would require public officials to actively undertake special steps to secularize an otherwise non-denominational public display of the Ten Commandments.” But, the amicus brief did acknowledge that “evidence of religious favoritism” by the public officials mounting the display “might, in our view, constitute impermissible endorsement [of religion].” The high court’s majority did find such evidence in the background to the Kentucky courthouse display.
In connection with the high court’s ruling, Nathan Diament, the Union’s director of public policy, stated: “As representatives of the faith to whom the Ten Commandments were initially given on Sinai, we have a deep appreciation for the role these principles have played in the development of a just and moral society. To entirely eliminate their display from the public square on the basis of their religious source would be a misguided attempt to oust religion from its critical role in American life. Taken together, the Court’s rulings in the Kentucky and Texas cases indicate that the Court remains committed to the principle that the Constitution demands government neutrality – not discrimination – toward religion. Those who would remove from the public square any symbol with a religious pedigree have been rebuffed; as have those who would deliberately use public resources to promote a particular religious message. These rulings are a victory for a sensible and moderate approach to the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty and defeat for the extremists of both political poles. It is a very good day for the Constitution in general and for religious liberty in the United States in particular.”