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The U.S. Supreme Court's ambiguous, split decisions on Ten Commandments displays has left everyone from community activists to lawyers grappling over what happens next.

One religious leader sees a legal opening to erect scores of new Ten Commandments monuments across the country while an atheist group says the rulings give it license to push for a monument at the Texas Capitol with "an anti-Bible passage."

In a nation with hundreds, if not thousands, of Ten Commandments displays, many agree the rulings give little specific guidance to communities wondering whether they are lawful or unlawful. Since the justices did not establish an overarching principle, battles are likely to persist on a case-by-case, community-by-community basis.

"It was never clear before [Monday] what you could and could not do with regard to the Ten Commandments and it's still not clear," said Francis Manion, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian law firm.

On Monday, the high court permitted a decades-old granite monument to the Ten Commandments at the Texas Capitol but declared unconstitutional framed copies of the biblical laws in two Kentucky courthouses. On Tuesday, the high court made several rulings that did little to clarify.

The court decided to let lower court decisions stand in several cases involving Ten Commandments displays, including two in which the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that both an Ohio judge's courtroom poster and stone monuments placed outside several high schools in Adams County, Ohio, were unconstitutional.

More monuments
Despite the confusion, some community activists — religious and nonreligious — are taking steps to move ahead.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director ...

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June 2005

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