An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

Officials in McCreary County, Kentucky, erected three separate displays of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses. The first display consisted of a large framed copy of the Ten Commandments that was hung in a busy hallway. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU) challenged the constitutionality of the first display.

In response, the county erected a second display. It surrounded the framed copy of the Ten Commandments with smaller framed copies of patriotic and legal documents that contained religious references. The district court found that the second display was unconstitutional because it “lacked any secular purpose” and the county’s object was instead to advance religion. The phrase secular, as opposed to sectarian, refers to a non-religious purpose.

After this ruling, the county erected a third display.

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