Thou Shalt Not Make Demands of the Court: Litigants Ask for Delay of Oral Argument Pending Moment of Truth From the Court Over the Ten Commandments

180px-rembrandt_harmensz_van_rijn_079A curious demand was made of the Supreme Court last week in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, where the Court is considering a seven Aphorisms monument in a city park where a 10 Commandments monument already stands. Robert Ritter, president of the Jefferson Madison Center for Religious Liberty, asked the Court to postpone the scheduled oral arguments “until such time as the Court publicly discloses … that a literal translation of the Hebrew on the tablet that Moses is holding on the Court’s South Wall Frieze is opposite of the Ten Commandments….” The Court appears to have ignored the demand.

The depiction of Moses holding two tablets in the Supreme Court shows him with his robe and beard hiding much of the lettering. The Court has referenced the display. For example, in the Court’s 2005 decision in Van Orden v. Perry, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote: “Since 1935, Moses has stood, holding two tablets that reveal portions of the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew, among other lawgivers in the south frieze.”

The Court routinely sends specific questions to the parties for further briefing or to narrow oral argument. However, the Court does not respond well to questions or demands going the other way.

For a copy of the “urgent letter” from Ritter, click here.

7 thoughts on “Thou Shalt Not Make Demands of the Court: Litigants Ask for Delay of Oral Argument Pending Moment of Truth From the Court Over the Ten Commandments”

  1. Jonathan, thank you for blogging about my November 10, 2008 “urgent letter” to Chief Justice John Roberts. True, in the ensuing five years I have yet to receive a reply. Shame on him. But the rest of the story is this — I met Jay Sekulow the morning of oral arguments in the case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum and asked him to translate for the Court the Hebrew on the Moses tablets on the South Wall Frieze. He informed the Court: “the words on the Court’s frieze are ‘steal,’ ‘murder,’ ‘adultery’ in Hebrew.” To which Justice Ginsburg immediately replied: “Yes.” (Transcript, pate 9.) This disproves Chief Justice Rehnquist argument in his plurality opinion in Van Orden v. Perry (2005) that the Ten Commandments are depicted in the courtroom of the Supreme Court. Indeed, if anything, the opposite is true (due to a spoof by Adolph A. Weinman, the architect responsible for the Friezes when the Court was built in the early 1930s).

  2. Mespo,
    Well done. The law of God is for your personal philosophy. The law of the land is what all of us have to honor in our day to day lives. Mespo put it well when he said that you will have to wait until your Judgement day to get the divine justice that people like Sharkgirl are referring to.

  3. SharkGirl:

    Most states have done away with that silly ritual of swearing on the Bible. In Virginia we merely swear to the “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Sometimes I see the words “so help me God,” but not that often. You may of course affirm to tell the truth and many people do that. Your confusion is apparently genuine but not particularly interesting since Court’s rule every day on matters of religious freedom and on the separation of Church & State and no one thinks that is odd. Judge’s are also State or Federal employees but they rule against the government all the time. That doesn’t confuse many people either since most folks realize Judges are duty bound to follow the law even if that conflicts with the interpretation of the government or certain persons’ interpretation of the will of the Creator of the Universe. If you want divine justice you may have to wait for an audience with Him to get it. Here on Earth you take man’s justice with all its good and bad.

  4. It amazes me how people get up in arms over the Ten Commandments and God in the courts.

    I got nasty comments about my blog, mixing God and law. Yet, when I had to give testimony, I was asked to swear before God. Yeah…get that? The courts in America see God as the highest authority by which we can take an oath. Then they trash their own authority by ruling against the Ten Commandments in their courts.

    Either judges and lawyers are very confused, or they are very good liars and actors. They swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth “so help me God” …then they fight over the Ten Commandments in the public square.

    And people think pro se litigants shouldn’t be in court without a lawyer? Goodness! The courts are more mixed up than we are. They should at least make a decision to either accept God as the highest form of authority, or else ditch Him all together. You know? Perhaps America’s judicial system will stop confusing us. Then, we’ll know where we stand on God and law issues.

    If the Ten Commandments aren’t allowed in the public square, then why are we swearing under the authority of God before we give testimony?

  5. Here’s the information the court really needs to make their decision:

    From Mel Brooks’ “History of the World, part 1”

  6. …..a city park where a 10 Commandments monument already stands.

    What is a monument of the Ten Commandments doing in a city park in the first place? Same with the Supreme Court frieze. I don’t know the proper judicial protocol and I can see judges and justices not being too fond of being asked questions, but I applaud the litigant who challenged them. The request to install the aphorisms should be seen as an equal to the installation of the Ten Commandments monument. Namely, neither should be permitted.

  7. The attorneys that requested this are either very bold or very stupid. I don’t have any appellate experience, but I would guess that you do not want to get the Justices mad at you before you even have had an opportunity to plead your case in front of them. Maybe it is just arrogance.

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