Here’s Bloomberg’s report. on oral arguments that were heard today. The comments from the justcies were pretty predictable.
Several justices expressed support for letting the monument remain on the Capitol grounds. They noted that many legislatures open their sessions with a prayer and that the high court itself has a decorative frieze that shows Moses, holding a tablet depicting the commandments, among other historical lawgivers.
“You don’t object to that,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said to Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, representing homeless lawyer Thomas Van Orden of Austin, who challenged the monument. Later in the argument, though, she told the Texas attorney general that every monument on the state Capitol grounds “conveys a message of state endorsement.”
Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia spoke in favor of keeping the Texas monument on the Capitol grounds.
“If an atheist walks by, he can avert his eyes,” Kennedy said. Saying the government can’t accommodate religion is “hypocritical and it’s asking religious people to surrender their beliefs,” he said.
The commandments are “a profound religious message believed in by a vast majority of the American people,” Scalia said. “There’s nothing wrong with the government reflecting that.”
Justice John Paul Stevens questioned how far governments could go, asking Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott whether the state could display a crucifix of the same size outside the Capitol. Abbott said he doubted it, because a crucifix wasn’t a recognized symbol of law.
Noting that the monument contained religious symbols such as the words Chi and Rho and a star of David, Justice David H. Souter said it was hard to find there was “anything here but an expression of approval by the state of Texas for a religious expression.”
UPDATE: Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog has filed his report on the oral argument.