MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.
NINA TOTENBERG: Four years ago, a closely divided court said basically that the government cannot display the Ten Commandments as a religious message, but it can, when the amendments are displayed, to show the impact of religion on society. The court did not today resolve whether this particular display of the Ten Commandments would pass constitutional muster, though, there were suggestions from two justices that it would. Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett.
RICHARD GARNETT: The signal we get with respect to religious symbols is that they can be permissible, but the rule is still that the government has to be sure it doesn't endorse religion when it permits such a display on public property or when it puts up such a display for itself.
TOTENBERG: Mr. John Lennon (Musician): (Singing) Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE SONG, "IMAGINE")
TOTENBERG: Some observers said Alito may imagine Lennon's musical contributions if he'd not been killed. Other may think of the lyrics of the song suggesting the benefit of a world without religion, countries, possessions, greed or hunger. University of Michigan law professor Douglas Laycock says that Alito's broad language allowing almost any interpretation for a monument is problematic.
P: That is just a wide open door for governments to put up religious messages and lie about why they did it and say that it's ambiguous and it can mean other things. And we're not endorsing, really, this message, we're just putting up through this message. And that's been a problem in these cases for a long time.
TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.
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