Friday, November 15, 2013

Van Orden v. Perry case brief

Van Orden v. Perry case brief summary
545 U.S. 677 (2005)

Petitioner citizen sued numerous state officials in their official capacities under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983, seeking both a declaration that a Ten Commandment monument's placement on the Texas State Capitol grounds violated the Establishment Clause and an injunction requiring its removal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed that the monument did not contravene the Establishment Clause. Certiorari was granted.

The 22 acres surrounding the Texas State Capitol contained 17 monuments and 21 historical markers commemorating the people, ideals, and events that compose Texan identity. This included a monument of the Ten Commandments.

  • The Court held that the Lemon test was not useful in dealing with the sort of passive monument that had been erected on the Capitol grounds. 
  • Instead, its analysis was driven both by the nature of the monument and by history. 
  • The Court held that the placement of the Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds was a far more passive use of those texts than the mandatory placement of the text in elementary school classrooms. 
  • Indeed, the citizen had apparently walked by the monument for a number of years before bringing this lawsuit. 
  • The monument was also quite different from the prayers that had been prohibited in public schools. 
  • Texas had treated her Capitol grounds monuments as representing the several strands in the State's political and legal history. 
  • The inclusion of the Ten Commandments monument in this group had a dual significance, partaking of both religion and government. 
  • The Court could not say that Texas' display of the monument violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.


The judgment was affirmed.

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