According to the Bible, the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue) are a list of laws handed down from God to Moses, and as such they are highly revered in Christianity and Judaism. Different sects of Christianity and Judaism often use different texts for the Decalogue, and Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, mentions the Commandments, though it does not list them. Regardless of what form the laws take, they are frequently seen as being highly charged with religious meaning. Some public schools in the past have displayed the Ten Commandments, as have other state institutions such as courthouses. This has prompted various organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to present legal challenges to the displays. In 1980, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Stone v. Graham that the Ten Commandments could not be displayed in schools, but the issue of state display of the text continues to be controversial and many religious activists frequently try to have the decision overturned. More recent Supreme Court cases regarding the Ten Commandments on state property1 have resulted in divided rulings and no principled conclusion. While most of these arguments can be applied to debates about religion and state more broadly, this topic is framed in the context of the USA, where the debate most commonly takes place.
Supreme Court of the United States, Van Orden v. Perry oral argument, The Oyez Project archive Supreme Court of the United States, McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky oral argument, The Oyez Project archive Anti-Defamation League. Rev. Henderson, Charles. "The Ten Commandments: Too Hot For School House Walls." Godweb. Lane, Charles. "Court Split Over Commandments." Washington Post. June 28, 2005. Phillips, Kyra. "Advocates Debate the First Amendment, Ten Commandments." CNN. August 21, 2003. Robinson, B.A. ReligiousTolerance.org Nov 4, 2005. Sieff, Kevin. "Ten Commandments in school stirs fight in Va. District." Washington Post. February 17, 2011. Swinford, Bill. "Ten Commandments debate makes for lively council meeting." The Daily Republican. August 17, 2010