WASHINGTON—Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund submitted a friend-of-the-court brief Monday to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing in favor of the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn of the Texas Capitol in Austin.
“To sweep our religious heritage from the public square distorts history beyond recognition,” said ADF attorney Jeremy Tedesco, who wrote the brief on behalf of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
“The indisputable truth is that the Ten Commandments were extraordinarily influential in this nation’s founding,” Tedesco said. “And the manner in which they are displayed on the Texas monument is fully compatible with the Constitution, as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled.”
The amicus brief was filed in the case Thomas Van Orden v. Rick Perry, et al., a challenge to the constitutionality of a monument donated to the people of Texas by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The Ten Commandments monument is just one of several monuments on the Capitol grounds commemorating various aspects of Texas history.
The brief argues that “the government may lawfully acknowledge the major role religious principles have served in forming our legal system and liberties” and that “banning such displays affirmatively denies the historical facts of our religious heritage as a nation.”
The brief further argues that coercion—not endorsement—should be the proper test for whether a religious message in a public context violates the Establishment Clause: “The variety of monuments placed at the Capitol shows that the State of Texas is not interested in forcing people to adopt or accept the Ten Commandments, but instead is interested in commemorating the people, ideas, and events central to Texas’ identity.”
The Texas State Capitol complex also includes other religious messages and symbols inscribed on statues, plaques, and seals.
“You can’t just ban the Ten Commandments and leave all these other references,” Tedesco explained. “You’d have to sandblast these other references from our government buildings as well. Most Americans would find that preposterous.”
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.