Response to George Will column

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Columnist George Will wrote about the recent 10 Commandments Supreme Court cases in Kentucky and Texas. His column appeared in my local paper on June 29th 2005 and I wrote a letter to the editor which was published July 9th.

Here is the published text of my letter:

Ten Commandments don’t belong on public buildings
Saturday, July 09, 2005

I agree with George Will that the Supreme Court’s rulings on June 27 about the Ten Commandments “rendered two more hairsplitting, migraine-inducing decisions about when religious displays on public property do and do not violate the First Amendment protection against ‘establishment’ of religion (“Court jumps through hoops it has made over the Ten Commandments,” Forum column, June 29).”

It is clear the court was trying to bend its opinion to justify old religious displays, including the Texas monument and the painting of Moses in the Supreme Court chambers, while trying to enforce government neutrality in religious matters.

The whole concept of “ceremonial deism” introduced by the court in the past 30 years is a sham to believers and nonbelievers. It asks believers to accept a state-sanitized version of their deeply held faith and asks nonbelievers to accept words and actions they would never voluntarily accept.

The court ruled that the Ten Commandments is an “instrument of religion” and is clearly a religious message. It seems that the justices don’t know what neutrality means. To most, it means not taking a side. If that is the case, then such displays don’t belong in courthouses or on capitol lawns, because to allow them, the state is taking a side.

Just because the majority of people agree with the text doesn’t mean it’s OK. That is why we have the Bill of Rights to begin with: to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

The most fundamental right we have as citizens is our freedom of conscience — which religion is part of — without undue interference from the state. It would be less intrusive if the state stayed out of religion altogether.

As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in her concurring opinion in the Kentucky case: “By enforcing the clauses, we have kept religion a matter for the individual conscience, not for the prosecutor or bureaucrat. . . . (Government) may not prefer one religion over another or promote religion over nonbelief. . . .

“It is true that many Americans find the commandments in accord with their personal beliefs. But we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”

If the court had ruled that all such displays were illegal, it would not have removed the Ten Commandments from the Book of Faith for the Christians or any other sect that uses them.


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