From the Ten Commandments to Christmas Trees: Public Religious Displays and the Courts

Source Organization: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

06/01/2007 - For most of the nation's history, public religious displays were not controversial. But in recent decades, a growing number of citizens and civil liberties groups have sued towns, cities and states over religious symbols in the public square, arguing that these displays should be removed because they violate the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion. Meanwhile, a steady stream of lawsuits has been filed challenging the permanent placement of religious symbols, such as the Ten Commandments, on and inside courthouses and government buildings.As part of a new series of occasional essays on the relationship between government and religion, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has published a legal backgrounder detailing the history of the debate over public religious displays and examining significant Supreme Court and lower court cases that make up the jurisprudence in this area. As a supplement to the backgrounder, one of its authors, Robert W. Tuttle, spoke with the Pew Forum about how the current law might be applied in certain circumstances, including a recent religious display controversy in Louisiana.


Robert W. Tuttle, David R. and Sherry Kirschner Berz Research Professor of Law and Religion, George Washington University Law School


Robert Ruby, Senior Editor, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

View full transcript at the Pew Research Center Web site.

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