Ken Paxton

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Attorney General Abbott Urges U. S. Supreme Court To Uphold Texas Ten Commandments Monument

WASHINGTON Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas Capitol grounds as a constitutional acknowledgment of religion. Attorney General Abbott, who delivered the oral arguments for the State of Texas, said the monument does not establish or endorse religion, but commemorates the profound influence the Ten Commandments have had on Texas and U.S. history and culture.

The First Amendment was never intended to remove all religious expression from the public square, Attorney General Abbott said. The Ten Commandments are undoubtedly a religious text, but they have also played an undeniable role in the shaping of our country’s laws. It is perfectly constitutional for Texas to recognize that secular influence by displaying the Ten Commandments.

Click on a link below to see and listen to Attorney General Greg Abbott:

Click on a link below to listen to Attorney General Greg Abbott:

The Texas Legislature accepted the six-foot granite monument in 1961 from the Fraternal Order of Eagles to commend their work with youth. The monument was placed halfway between the Capitol and the state Supreme Court building to signify the secular impact the Ten Commandments have had on the state’s legal institutions. It is one of 17 memorials that adorn the grounds of the Texas Capitol and celebrate various people, events, and ideals important to the culture and diversity of Texas.

Attorney General Abbott continued: The Supreme Court already recognizes the importance of the Ten Commandments in our nation’s history and their impact on our laws. Carvings of Moses and the Ten Commandments appear throughout the Supreme Court building, including the very chambers where we argued this case today. Like these sculptures, the Texas monument is constitutional, and I hope the Supreme Court will make that clear when it rules on this case.

The Ten Commandments monument sat unchallenged on the Capitol grounds for more than 40 years, until Thomas Van Orden sued in 2002 claiming it was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The federal district court rejected his argument, ruling the state’s reasons for placing the monument were secular, and thus constitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit also upheld the monument in 2003, and Van Orden appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

Federal appeals courts are deeply divided on whether Ten Commandments displays violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Attorney General Abbott said he hopes the Supreme Court will use the Texas case to clear up confusion on the issue.

This case will set the guidelines for years to come on how governments can display anything religious, Abbott added. The Texas monument is an excellent example of how to display the Ten Commandments within the parameters of the Constitution, and I hope the Court will use Texas as a model for the nation.

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

Click here to view other monuments on the Texas State Capitol grounds