Van Orden v. Perry (2005)

The Supreme Court examined whether the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment allows the display of a monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds that is inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the Texas display of the monument falls on the permissible side of the constitutional line and so does not violate the Establishment Clause. The state placed the Ten Commandments monument next to the Texas State Capitol with 38 other monuments and markers representing different aspects of Texas’s political and legal history.

In the Court’s opinion, Justice William Rehnquist noted that its religious message notwithstanding, the monument was presented in a context conveying a “secular moral message about proper standards of social conduct and a message about the historic relation between those standards and the law.” Because of its context, Justice Rehnquist wrote that the public visiting the grounds would tend to consider the religious aspect of the tablet’s message as part of that broader message about cultural heritage.