HINDU AMERICAN FOUNDATION REACTS TO U.S. SUPREME COURT'S DECISIONS IN TEN COMMANDMENTS CASES

Date: June 27, 2005

TAMPA, FL - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed a combination of relief and some disappointment over the Supreme Court decisions on the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on government property. The decision in McCreary County vs. ACLU, that disallowed a framed version of the Ten Commandments in a Kentucky courthouse supported the HAF position that public displays of the overtly Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments effectively promote a particular religion over other religious traditions. In contrast, in Thomas Van Orden vs. Rick Perry, a case in which HAF submitted the first ever Supreme Court amicus brief representing Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, the Court ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments on the Texas State Capitol grounds could remain.

The HAF amicus brief was cited in the dissenting opinion authored by Justice John Paul Stevens in the Van Orden case. In the citing, Justice Stevens wrote that the monument violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by, ".prescribing a compelled code of conduct from one God, namely a Judeo-Christian God, that is rejected by.Hinduism, as well as nontheistic religions, such as Buddhism."

"Clearly, some members of the bench considered our views seriously and decided in favour of our communities in the Kentucky case," said Suhag Shukla, Esq., Legal Counsel of HAF, who coordinated the filing of the brief with a team of attorneys working pro bono at Goodwin Procter, LLP. "We are disappointed that the Court's reasoning in the Kentucky case did not produce the same conclusion in the Texas case."

In its decisions, the Supreme Court held that the context in which the display is placed is paramount. According to the Court, the courtroom displays in Kentucky were placed with an expressed purpose to promote the Judeo-Christian faith.

"If the factual surroundings of the Decalogue displays are critical to their constitutionality," said Nikhil Joshi, Esq., member of the Hindu American Foundation Board of Directors, "Then HAF, and similar organizations protecting the views of other major religious traditions, must remain vigilant to ensure that the separation of church and state enshrined in our Constitution is never violated."

Despite the split decision in these cases, Shukla and Joshi expressed satisfaction that HAF's efforts in this case were recognized. "To have the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain perspective acknowledged by the highest court is a first for our community," said Ms. Shukla. "HAF will endeavour to ensure that a Hindu voice is heard in dialogues of national import."

The full amicus curiae (friend of the court brief) may be viewed at http://www.hinduamericanfoundation.org/campaigns_10_commandments-amicus_brief.pdf

HAF is a non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.