Category: Opinion

Opinion letters
by Various Authors

First the Ten Commandments and then prayer in schools.
What next?

10 Commandments Ordered Removed

.c The Associated Press

LONDON, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge Friday ordered the Ten Commandments to be removed from courthouses and classrooms in several Kentucky counties.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman ruled that even though the commandments are surrounded by other historical documents, they are still religious in nature and serve no secular purpose.

The rulings result from suits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of residents of Pulaski, McCreary and Harlan counties. They had argued the displays amount to an unconstitutional mix of church and state.

McCreary County Judge-Executive Jimmie Greene said someone else will have to remove the Ten Commandments from his courthouse.

``I said early on I would not remove them, and I will not,'' Greene said. ``I'll go to jail before I'll take them down. ... This is one order I will not obey.''

Several of Kentucky's governing bodies in the last year have voted to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms and courthouses.

The General Assembly passed legislation that would allow the posting of documents depicting the Ten Commandments in classrooms and on public property as part of ``an historical display'' along with other historical documents.

Commentary: May 8, 2000

Two hundred years ago our forefathers included in the Constitution words aimed at avoiding what European nation’s failed to perceive. They had a history of living with control of both secular and religious life by the same institution. It was called the Church. In time it became divided into Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church and after more centuries Western Europe came to place certain Protestant churches into the same role in such nations as Great Britain. The quest for secular political power caused numerous wars lead by the church leaders and their inability to share such leadership. The last of that type of competition is still seen today in part of the island of Ireland!

The desire to avoid the European experience was manifest in the U.S. Constitution in words that explicitly prohibited the federal government from any activity to make any church the official point of control over religious activity. The U.S. has never experienced any attempt to thwart that prohibition. Nonetheless, modern day zealots of a different sort have worked hard to twist the prohibition to include thoughts that the founders did not even understand, much less want to include in the language.

In our age of simplicity in politics, we have constructed many 'litmus-test' types of thinking, aimed at encouraging a lot more than meets the eye. We have already convinced most people that the Constitution includes specific words commanding a 'separation of church and state' and this has been translated into meaning that no reference in public life that has any connection to anything found in the history of religion can be tolerated! Atheists petition for removal of "In God we Trust" from our coins and bills. This expression was put there to show that even in our most secular part of life, the commercial one that involves money, we do not want to use the phrase "In Man we Trust". Because men are subject to corrupt thinking and actions, we have always been a nation of people that are said to be 'God fearing'.

In today's secular world, the extremists call for civil rights to mean that nobody should be exposed to any public utterance or writing that pays allegiance to any moral code or historic event that shows the 'God fearing' side of mankind, because it is deemed to be offensive to those that choose to believe in nothing as their religion! Yes, nihilism is the word for the religion of those that profess to have none. They are free to recognize or to ignore the fact or the evidences of it. But, they do not want those who believe in God to be allowed to enjoy an equal freedom of expression in public.

Americans are much in need today of a clarification in the Constitution to show the protection of both the right to publicly support either choice. If we put such an amendment in place, we could then mount such historic evidences as are shown to be of issue in the above court case, without fear of having them declared as signs of an official state religion.

Organized religion deals with institutions called by various names- Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus to name a few. We do not want any such to become the official religion of the state as is the case in some parts of the world today. We can allow for cultural and religious diversity in the U.S. and that can include the religion of no religion, known as Nihilism to those that bother to give it a name.

While we must defend the right of those that lack any faith to still be citizens of our nation, we do not have to avoid allowing others the right of free speech to espouse ideas and to show examples of how they are manifested in tangible ways. The Ten Commandments came to the Jewish or Hebrew people via a well documented means. These covenants have been revered for thousands of years.

Banning the display of the Ten Commandments is intolerable. You can find on this site the evidence of the "Ten Entitlements" which are written to ridicule those that would espouse them. It is reasonable to add to a display of both another sheet that is blank to represent the view of the Nihilists!

Update after Supreme Court decision on school prayer.

From the Wall St. Journal of Tuesday, June 20, 2000

A Hail Mary for a Secular

By Douglas W. Kmiec, a professor of law at Pepperdine
University. He was an assistant attorney general, in
charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, in the Reagan

Given the peculiar facts of the case, the Supreme Court
may have been right yesterday to strike down a Texas
school district's policy of allowing students to pray before
football games. But Justice John Paul Stevens's
sweeping opinion goes much too far. Before yesterday,
the court precluded the government from engaging in
religious coercion. Today, the court is edging ever closer
to finding that the First Amendment mandates the
creation of a secular state.

Under any understanding of the
Establishment Clause, public schools
are not supposed to promote religious
activity, but that's exactly what the
Santa Fe (Texas) School District did. It
allowed a student-elected chaplain to
deliver a prayer over the high school's
public address system before each
varsity football game. It boosted
attendance at Baptist revival meetings.
It even chastised children for holding
religious beliefs contrary to those of
the area's majority.
After it was sued in 1995, the school
district reversed course. Instead of mandating prayers
before a football game, the high school allowed students
merely to choose whether a "message" or "statement"
would be delivered, and if so, by whom. The student
speakers could say what they wanted-prayer or not-so
long as it promoted good sportsmanship and solemnized
the event.

Given the Santa Fe district's record, the Supreme Court
majority was not inclined to give the school district the
benefit of the doubt now. This is perfectly
understandable, even though the new policy seems
perfectly Constitutional. After all, students are not
required to invoke God before a football game; they are
free to invoke Walter Payton or some other gridiron great
if they prefer. And of course a student freely choosing to
pray -- if that is what is now happening -- does not
constitute the government establishing anything.

That the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, ruled otherwise
shows just how far Constitutional interpretation has
moved from the original understanding of the Founding
Fathers. The First Amendment was intended to prevent
the legal coercion of religious belief or practice. Its goal
was to bolster the individual pursuit of religious ideas, not
to exclude religion from the public square.

The Founders worried that the First Amendment would
"be taken in such latitude as to be extremely hurtful to the
cause of religion," but adopted it anyway because they
wanted to prevent the establishment of a national church.
When the religion clauses came to be applied against the
states after the Civil War, this prohibited the
establishment of state churches also.

Avoiding government-coerced belief, as the Founders
intended, is far different from suppressing the religious
beliefs and practices of students. But yesterday the
Supreme Court suggested that its desire to be secular
trumps even the desire of students to be exposed to
religion. Justice John Paul Stevens held that it "is not
acceptable" for a student body to elect a speaker who
chooses to pray, even if that prayer is perfectly voluntary.
We have gone from a duty for the government to remain
viewpoint-neutral to a duty for individual students to
remain viewpoint-neutral as well.

The court majority claims that its intent is not to quash all
religious messages in school -- only those that are
attributable to the school, not just the student. Given the
Sante Fe district's inexcusable religious favoritism in the
past, there is some reason to hope that the court may
allow private religious speech in cases where school
officials are more circumspect. If so, the court should
make its feelings clear by granting review to a case from
Florida in which an appeals court approved a school's
policy of allowing students to elect a graduation speaker
who might choose to deliver a religious message.

But the signs do not auger well for religious freedom.
Yesterday, the same Supreme Court majority refused to
review an appellate decision regarding the teaching of
evolution in public schools. The school in question had
not mandated the teaching of evolution. It had merely
urged students to "exercise critical thinking" when the
theory of evolution was presented, and informed them
that the presentation of one view was not intended "to
influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation."

The courts seem to be turning themselves into the enemy
of even private religious expression. This would be a
great surprise to George Washington, who endorsed
religious belief in his farewell address as an
"indispensable support" for "political prosperity."

Additional commentary by Richard Tryon
as of June 20, 2000

It is beginning to look like the secular crowd is winning the war to get God or prayer in his name out of our public lives. Therefore we have to do one of two things:

A. We get government out of our lives by privatizing schools, for example, so that we have more latitutude in who decides what behavior is tolerated. Apparently children are not to be allowed to pray on property that any branch of the government has control as all must conform to federal mandates and regulations in order to feed at the public trough; or

B. We have to invent a new way to invoke God’s blessing on our human actions as we work and play together.

I submit that we start a system of “1984 newspeak” that looks like we are paying homage to the Secular Supreme Beings known as Supreme Court Judges who know best how to save us from ourselves!

All public prayer then could start out, for example....”Dear Supreme Court Judge Stevens, (or just SCJS) possessors of infinite knowledge and power to direct our lives, we publicly plead that you call upon your and any other powers available to you here on Earth or elsewhere in the Universe, to bless, direct, and encourage our performance at this [Name the event here] held on land deemed to be under control of the laws and governmental agencies of the nation.

Because we have the privilege of knowing of the eventual magestic disposition of your body and soul, we might better pray .....”Our Father, which art in Heaven, etc. or any other suitable language to meet the needs of the occasion.

Because we are all entitled to such free speech, it should be hard to find any officer of the law wanting to try to stop you from paying homage to the secular God, even though it may be possible that this God might choose to relay the message to another, who claims no secular territory as being distinguishable or separate.

Richard Tryon

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