Alabama's Chief Justice disappointed in one ruling, heartened by the other

"I am disappointed in the Supreme Court of the United States' ruling today in a Kentucky case prohibiting the display of the Ten Commandments. I do not find anything in the United States Constitution that prohibits a state government from publicly displaying the Ten Commandments", said Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers.

Disregarding the role that religion has played in shaping our society and our laws flies in the face of well-established tradition. Indeed, as Justice Scalia wrote in dissent:

"Acknowledgment of the contribution that religion has made to our Nation's legal and governmental heritage partakes of a centuries-old tradition… Display of the Ten Commandments is well within the mainstream of this practice of acknowledgment. Federal, State, and local governments across the Nation have engaged in such display. The Supreme Court Building itself includes depictions of Moses with the Ten Commandments in the Courtroom and on the east pediment of the building, and symbols of the Ten Commandments 'adorn the metal gates lining the north and south sides of the Courtroom as well as the doors leading into the Courtroom.'…The frequency of these displays testifies to the popular understanding that the Ten Commandments are a foundation of the rule of law, and a symbol of the role that religion played, and continues to play, in our system of government. "

I am heartened that, in a companion case from Texas, the Court upheld a Ten Commandments display. Here Chief Justice Rehnquist got it right:

"Of course, the Ten Commandments are religious -- they were so viewed at their inception and so remain. The monument therefore has religious significance. Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the [Constitution]. "

By disallowing the Ten Commandments in Kentucky yet allowing them to be displayed in Texas, the Court sent confusing and contradictory signals. Justice Scalia's dissent exposes the shifting sands on which the Court has based these decisions:

"What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle."

Our founding fathers anticipated that the judicial branch would be the "least dangerous branch of government". When the Court departs from the plain meaning of the Constitution as written, it can become the most dangerous branch.

Statement provided by Alabama Supreme Court Justice Drayton Nabers