Stone v. Graham
Supreme Court of the United States
STONE v. GRAHAM
On Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Kentucky
No. 80-321 Argued: --- Decided: November 17, 1980
A Kentucky statute requiring the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private contributions, on the wall of each public school classroom in the State has no secular legislative purpose, and therefore is unconstitutional as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. While the state legislature required the notation in small print at the bottom of each display that "[t]he 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," such an "avowed" secular purpose is not sufficient to avoid conflict with the First Amendment. The pre-eminent purpose of posting the Ten Commandments, which do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, is plainly religious in nature, and the posting serves no constitutional educational function. Cf. Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203. That the posted copies are financed by voluntary private contributions is immaterial, for the mere posting under the auspices of the legislature provides the official support of the state government that the Establishment Clause prohibits. Nor is it significant that the Ten Commandments are merely posted rather than read aloud, for it is no defense to urge that the religious practices may be relatively minor encroachments on the First Amendment.