Thursday, November 7, 2013

McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky case brief

McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky case brief summary
545 U.S. 844 (2005)

Petitioners, two Kentucky counties, sought certiorari review of a judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed a district court's grant of a preliminary injunction requiring the removal of Ten Commandment displays in the counties' courthouses in a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 action by respondent American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleging violation of the Establishment Clause of U.S. Constitutional Amendment I.

After the ACLU sued to enjoin the counties' displays of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses, the counties adopted resolutions calling for more extensive exhibits to show that the Ten Commandments were Kentucky's "precedent legal code." Subsequently, the counties revised the exhibits to post new displays entitled the "Foundations of American Law and Government" with the professed intent of educating citizens as to nine documents including the Ten Commandments.

  • The Court affirmed the judgment, agreeing that all of the displays violated the Establishment Clause because they did not have a secular legislative purpose. 
  • The Court rejected the counties' request to abandon Lemon's purpose test or to truncate the Court's enquiry into purpose. 
  • The Court held that it was necessary to take purpose seriously under the Establishment Clause and to understand purpose in light of context. 
  • Therefore, the lower courts properly considered the progression leading up to the counties' third displays in determining that a religious objective permeated the counties' actions. 
  • The Court emphasized the importance of neutrality as an interpretive guide to the Establishment Clause.


The court affirmed the judgment.

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