Ten Commandment challenges spread
Disputes have arisen in 14 states. Many rulings go against the displays.
By Warren Richey | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Some 3,300 years after Moses descended from Mount Sinai, a debate over the Ten Commandments is raging in towns and cities across America. From Cambridge, Mass., to Montgomery, Ala., to Everett, Wash., state and local officials are scrambling to defend the placement of the Ten Commandments in government buildings or on public land.
In some cases, monuments and plaques depicting the Ten Commandments have been on display for decades. But now their placement on government property is increasingly being challenged by groups who say such displays violate the US Constitution's mandated separation between church and state. "The rulings are now mostly against the Ten Commandments. The tide has turned," says Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis.
The disputes are part of a larger national debate over how much entanglement of religion and government the Constitution permits, including questions about the inclusion of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
"This is a culture war," says Edward White, a lawyer with the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. "You have certain groups who are trying to secularize this country and stamp out every image of our Judeo-Christian heritage. The fight is being fought everywhere."
The most closely watched dispute is unfolding in Alabama, where the state's chief justice, Roy Moore, installed a 2-1/2-ton stone monument of the Decalogue in the rotunda of the justice building two years ago. A federal judge and a federal appeals-court panel have both ruled that the display amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the government.
Chief Justice Moore has been ordered to remove the display within the next two weeks. Moore's supporters are warning that they are prepared to engage in civil disobedience to prevent the removal.
Although it has received the lion's share of press coverage, the Montgomery dispute is just one of numerous Ten Commandments cases. Similar disputes are under way in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Many receive only local press coverage.
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I believe in the separation of church and state. But I also believe that the forced removal of plaques that represent the Ten commandments Is overkill. What is your opinion should they be removed from public buildings?