Ten Commandments to Stay in KY Court

20 09 2007

Filed under: Kentucky, Mercer County, Ten Commandments, Church and State

The ACLU, obviously still giddy over Judge Roy Moore Ten Commandment loss in Alabama, tried to ride that wave into Kentucky. But they lost, and for the second time. U.S. District Judge Karl Forrester made the correct call.

A federal court in Lexington, Ky., has ruled that the Ten Commandments can remain on display in the Mercer County courthouse, rejecting an attempt by the American Civil Liberties Union to have them removed.

“This is a major victory for the people of Mercer County and for all Americans who don’t buy into the ACLU’s extreme misrepresentation of our Constitution,” said Francis J. Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which argued the case for the county.

“The First Amendment was never intended to remove all mention of God or religion from the public square,” said Manion. “The Supreme Court and many other courts have long recognized the foundational role of the Ten Commandments in the development of our legal system.”

Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who argued the first case in 2005 on the exact same display, commented:

“The tide is turning against the ACLU’s war on the Ten Commandments. Courts are returning to common sense recognition of the historical role of the Ten Commandments and its influence on American law. The ACLU has been on a search and destroy mission to remove every vestige of our religious history from public view. The ACLU’s attempts to remove the Ten Commandments are nothing more than historical revisionism at its worst. The Ten Commandments played a major role in the development of American law.”

Last June, I noted the top three flaws in the ACLU’s arguments from the first ruling:

1.) This extra-constitutional construct (can we say breathingist?) has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state. Our Nation’s history is replete with governmental acknowledgment and in some cases, accommodation of religion. There is an unbroken history of official acknowledgment by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life from at least 1789. After all, we are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. Thus, state recognition of religion that falls short of endorsement is constitutionally permissible.

2.) The ACLU focuses on the religiousness of the Ten Commandments. No reasonable person would dispute their sectarian nature, but they also have a secular nature that the ACLU does not address. That they are religious merely begs the question whether this display is religious; it does not answer it. The Establishment Clause inquiry cannot be distilled into a fixed, per se rule. Although treating the subject matter categorically would make our review eminently simpler, we are called upon to examine Mercer County’s actions in light of context. Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause. Moreover, focus exclusively on the religious component of any activity would inevitably lead to its invalidation under the Establishment Clause. The Constitution requires an analysis beyond the four-corners of the Ten Commandments. In short, “proving” that the Ten Commandments themselves are religious does not prove an Establishment Clause violation.

3.) The ACLU erroneously–though perhaps intentionally–equates recognition with endorsement. To endorse is necessarily to recognize, but the converse does not follow. Endorsement of religion is a normative concept; whereas acknowledgment of religion is not necessarily a value-laden concept. Because nothing in the display, its history, or its implementation supports the notion that Mercer County has selectively endorsed the sectarian elements of the first four Commandments, we fail to see why the reasonable person would interpret the presence of the Ten Commandments as part of the larger “Foundations” display as a governmental endorsement of religion.

It simply cannot be stated any clearer than that. Those who would argue that our Founders intended to begin a secular nation with secular documents are living a pipe dream. A. H. Everett, said in the Legislature of Massachusetts, “In almost all of the distinguished states, the principal care of the community has been to provide for the support of religion.” Whether out of ignorance or lack of exposure, a minority of Americans neglect every Founder not named Paine, Jefferson, or Madison. And the latter two must be quoted out of context in order fit their secular, separation mold.

Bishop McIlvaine said in 1839, “That the Christian religion, is recognized as the religion of this nation and government, and as such is interwoven in its laws, and has a legal preference, though not ‘establishment’ in technical language, over whatever else has the name of religion, and especially over all forms of infidelity, all must admit. We are thankful that our system of government, our common law, and administration of justice, were instituted by men having the wisdom to see how entirely the liberties and interests of this nation are dependent on the teachings and keeping of the truths and institutions of Christianity.”

When a person takes an honest the Christian worldview of the Founders, it is not difficult to see Christianity woven into the fabric of our founding documents. Denial of our Christian heritage does not make secularism true and thanks to solid, originalist judges, such as Judge Forrester, we will prevent radical leftists from re-writing our nation’s history.

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