Bench Memos

Ten Commandments plus Fifth Amendment

Scrappleface succeeds in putting today’s cases together with last week’s Takings case:

Court Allows 10 Commandments on Seized Land

by Scott Ott

(2005-06-27) — In a pair of rulings on the constitutionality of the 10 Commandments on government property, the Supreme Court today said the commandments may be displayed on public land if that property has been seized from private owners for ‘public purposes’ under eminent domain.

The 5-4 decision comes on the heels of this week’s court declaration that so-called “private” property is actually government land temporarily under private management until its eventual seizure.

In a second ruling handed down today, the Supreme Court banned the 10 commandments from appearing in courtrooms unless the following disclaimer is included: “Display of this historically-significant collection of laws shall not be construed as an endorsement of the God who may, or may not, have spoken them, nor of the existence of such a God, nor of the legality of the laws. Citizens may observe and obey these commandments at their own risk. Please consult your family attorney before embarking on any law-abiding regimen.”

We can at least take small comfort in the fact that the Court is not entirely beyond parody.

Ed Whelan — Ed Whelan is a leading commentator on nominations to the Supreme Court and the lower courts and on issues of constitutional law.

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