Beliefnet
Faith & Justice

It’s a legal challenge that’s been underway for years.  And, now, we’re asking the Supreme Court of the United States to get involved.

We filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari at the Supreme Court urging the high court to take an Ohio case and overturn a federal appeals court decision that declared a poster that included that Ten Commandments as part of an exhibit on legal philosophy by a State Judge unconstitutional.

We are urging the Justices to hear the case and overturn a February 2011 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that determined that the display in the courtroom of Ohio Common Pleas Court Judge James DeWeese violated the First Amendment and had to be removed.  We represent Judge DeWeese in this case.

At issue is a poster designed to illustrate Judge DeWeese’s legal philosophy. The “Philosophies of Law in Conflict” poster features two columns of principles or precepts intended to show the contrast between legal philosophies based on moral absolutes and moral relativism. The judge used a version of the Ten Commandments as symbolic of moral absolutes, and a set of statements from sources such as the Humanist Manifesto as symbolic of moral relativism.

In the petition urging the Supreme Court to take the case, the ACLJ argues that the appeals court erred when it concluded that an ACLU attorney, who objected to the poster, had legal standing to bring the suit because he suffered what the court determined to be “injury” by simply viewing the poster.

The ACLJ contends that the appeals court got it wrong – arguing that simply being offended does not give a plaintiff legal standing to files suit.  Further, the ACLJ argues the 6th Circuit opinion conflicts with Supreme Court and other appeals courts decisions recognizing with approval the role of religion in the country’s history and heritage.

In the filing, the ACLJ notes that Judge DeWeese’s opinions regarding law and morality can best be summed up by Justice William O. Douglas:

“The institutions of our society are founded on the belief that there is an authority higher than the authority of the State; that there is a moral law which the State is powerless to alter; that the individual possesses rights, conferred by the Creator, which government must respect.”  McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 562 (1961) (Douglas, J., dissenting).

The ACLJ petition filed at the Supreme Court is posted here.  The case is DeWeese v. ACLU.

We believe it’s critical for the Supreme Court to take this case and overturn a flawed decision that conflicts with Supreme Court precedent and other appeals courts.

This display is not only appropriate, but constitutional as well.  It merely reflects a legal philosophy embraced by our founders:  a society’s legal system must rest on moral absolutes as opposed to moral relativism, and that abandonment of moral absolutes leads to societal breakdown and chaos. 

We’re hopeful that the high court will take this case and overturn this flawed decision.

I will keep you posted.

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