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The Lemon Test

The court reiterated the three-part test of Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) 403 U.S. 602, used for determining whether a statute passes muster under the establishment clause:

" 'First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion . . .; finally the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion." ' " ( Stone v. Graham, at p. 40 101 S. Ct. at p. 193.)

In concluding that the statute failed the first part of the Lemon test, the court stated:

"The pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, . . . the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord's name in vain, and observing the Sabbath Day." ( Stone v. Graham, at pp. 41-42 101 S. Ct. at p. 194.)

The court concluded that while the veneration of the Ten Commandments may be a laudable objective as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective, even though the posted copies were financed by voluntary private contributions. ( Id. at p. 42 101 S. Ct. at p. 194.)