Tuesday, October 12, 2004

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Attorney General Abbott To Defend Ten Commandments At United States Supreme Court

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today welcomed the opportunity to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of a Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds. The Court today agreed to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that placement of the monument does not violate the First Amendment.
The Ten Commandments are a foundational document for the Texas and U.S. systems of laws. Acknowledging that fact by displaying this monument on the state Capitol grounds is entirely appropriate –– and constitutional,” Attorney General Abbott said. “I look forward to defending this Ten Commandments monument before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In 1961, the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the six-foot red granite monument to the state as a way to combat juvenile delinquency and promote a personal code of conduct for youths, resulting in “liberty, peace and justice.” The Texas Legislature approved its placement on the Capitol grounds that same year, in honor of the group’s “efforts and contributions in combating juvenile delinquency.” The monument currently sits in the northwest quadrant of the grounds, between the Capitol and the Texas Supreme Court, along with other monuments and memorials.

In November 2003, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found the Legislature’s intent in accepting the monument was not an unconstitutional attempt to establish a state-sponsored religion. The plaintiff in the case, Thomas Van Orden, appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Abbott continued: “In the very chamber where our arguments will take place there is a carving of Moses holding the Ten Commandments. Likewise, the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds is a constitutional recognition of the historic significance the Ten Commandments have played in the development of our shared moral and legal codes.”

Federal appeals courts are deeply divided on the question of whether Ten Commandments displays violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“The Texas monument is an excellent example of how to display the Ten Commandments within the parameters of the First Amendment, and I hope the Court will use Texas as a model for the nation,” Attorney General Abbott said.

View Attorney General Abbott’s brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court