Breyer speaks at author forum
In 2005, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a concurring opinion with the majority in ruling that Ten Commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses were unconstitutional -- yet one at the Texas Capitol was not and could stay.
"I can't find even one person who thinks I did the right thing," Breyer told more than 500 people at last night's Kentucky Author Forum at the Kentucky Center."A lot of people would like them both to be unlawful and a lot of people would like them both to be lawful."
The case was a good illustration of one of Breyer's main points last night: Justices often need to look at the purpose behind the Constitution, not just the strict language.
While the First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law establishing religion, it leaves unclear whether a religious document can be used for secular purposes, such as teaching the history of a religion, Breyer said.
In Texas, the tablet was not erected for religious purposes and, in fact, was one of many posted around the country by director Cecil B. DeMille when he was promoting his 1956 movie, "The Ten Commandments," Breyer said.
"If we say that violates the Constitution, the people who don't want any monuments will go around the country chiseling off Ten Commandments from every public building in every city in the United States, and what's that going to do for religious harmony?" he said. "Well, I don't think it will promote it."
But in Kentucky, officials were intent on proving to the Supreme Court that they could post the Ten Commandments, "and it seemed pretty clear from the
background that they had a religious purpose in mind," he said.
"If we say that's OK, we'll have religious use of religious documents in courthouses throughout the country," Breyer, author of "Active Liberty," said...