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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

WP Editorial: Ten Opinions

Tuesday, June 28, 2005; Page A14

THE SUPREME Court's decisions yesterday on displays of the Ten Commandments on public property were not a model of clarity or judicial consensus. To resolve two cases, one from Texas and the other from Kentucky, the justices delivered 10 different opinions -- one, we suppose, for each commandment in the Decalogue. These ran the gamut from Justice John Paul Stevens's strict separation of church and state, under which both displays would have to be removed, to Justice Clarence Thomas's radical suggestion that the First Amendment's establishment clause does not apply to state governments at all. In the end, the court eschewed either a blanket prohibition or any general permission for Ten Commandments displays. One five-justice majority ruled the Kentucky display beyond the pale; another -- with Justice Stephen G. Breyer switching sides -- held that Texas's could remain. That general guidance is constructive.