Though the Supreme Court reached different results in two cases challenging government displays of the Ten Commandments, the court’s message was quite clear: in deciding such issues, context is everything.
The surprise was palpable in the nation’s capital when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a crucial swing vote in many of the Supreme Court’s most controversial decisions of the past 24 years, announced on July 1 that she would retire to care for her husband.
Advocates for church-state separation generally gave a collective sigh of relief last month when the Supreme Court ruled that the posting of the Ten Commandments inside two Kentucky courthouses is unconstitutional.
This summer the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on several cases involving the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property. Public opinion is fairly clear on this question: according to a Gallup poll, 76 percent say state governments should be allowed to display the Ten Commandments, and only 21 percent disagree.
If the U.S. Supreme Court prohibits public displays of the Ten Commandments nationwide, all heck may break loose, say some religious conservatives. They predict that the furor would exceed the reaction when a California court ruled that “under God” did not belong in the Pledge of Allegiance.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision this month to ban execution of juvenile offenders is finding strong support among some national religious groups.
The 5-4 decision will remove from death row about 70 individuals who were convicted of murders committed before they turned 18. Prosecutors will also be prevented from seeking the death penalty in future cases of juvenile capital crime.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a case involving Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman whose right to life has been at the center of a 15-year legal battle. A Florida Supreme Court decision had denied Florida Governor Jeb Bush the power to block a court ruling that Schiavo’s life support be stopped. Her parents had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision.