Van Orden v. Perry

PETITIONER: Thomas Van Orden
RESPONDENT: Rick Perry, in his Official Capacity as Governor of Texas and Chairman, State Preservation Board, et al.
LOCATION: Texas State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 03-1500
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 545 US 677 (2005)
GRANTED: Oct 12, 2004
ARGUED: Mar 02, 2005
DECIDED: Jun 27, 2005

ADVOCATES:
Erwin Chemerinsky - argued the cause for Petitioner
Greg Abbott - argued the cause for Respondents
Paul D. Clement - argued the cause for Respondents, on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting respondents

Facts of the case

Thomas Van Orden sued Texas in federal district court, arguing a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol building represented an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. Orden argued this violated the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits the government from passing laws "respecting an establishment of religion." The district court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Orden and said the monument served a valid secular purpose and would not appear to a reasonable observer to represent a government endorsement of religion.

Question

Does a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of a state capitol building violate the First Amendment's establishment clause, which barred the government from passing laws "respecting an establishment of religion?"

Media for Van Orden v. Perry

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 2005 in Van Orden v. Perry

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 27, 2005 in Van Orden v. Perry

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the court to announce in Van Orden against Perry.

The grounds of the Texas State Capitol include a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s finding that the monument is not contributing the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

We granted certiorari and now affirm.

In an opinion joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, we hold that suppressive display of this monument with both the legacy and seculent significance does not violate the Establishment Clause.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Justices Scalia and Thomas have filed concurring opinions; Justice Breyer has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Ginsburg has joined; Justice O’Connor has filed a dissenting opinion; Justice Souter has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Stevens and Ginsburg have joined.

I did not know we had that many people on our court.