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Sydell Stone et al., members of the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union, brought an action in a Kentucky trial court challenging the validity, under the First Amendment, of a Kentucky statute requiring the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall of each public school classroom in the Commonwealth.
The trial court upheld the statute, which provided that each of the required 16 by 20 inch copies of the Commandments was to bear a notation in small print stating that the "secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of Western Civilization and the Common Law of the United States."
It was also provided that the posted copies were to be purchased with private voluntary contributions. The trial court found that its avowed purpose was secular, not religious, and that the law would neither advance nor inhibit any religion or religious group, nor involve the state excessively in religious matters.
The Supreme Court of Kentucky, on appeal, affirmed the judgment by an equally divided court.
Aggrieved, petitioner elevated the case to the United States Supreme Court certiorari review.
Whether or not the Kentucky statute requiring posting of Ten Commandments in public schools violate the First Amendment?
The United States Supreme Court held that the statute had no secular legislative purpose and was, therefore, unconstitutional. The pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls was plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments were undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose could blind the Court to that fact.
It did not matter that the posted copies were financed by voluntary contributions where the mere posting under the auspices of the legislature provided the official support of the state.
The statute blatantly fails the first and second test, therefore, unconstitutional.