Every once in a while the impossible happens: courts show common sense.
After a long battle, a tablet of the Ten Commandments prominently displayed in Alabama’s Supreme Court was ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson.
One would think that a huge granite tablet emblazoned with a passage from a holy book was an obvious violation of church and state, but it seems that it just took the Alabamans a little while to figure that out.
The man responsible for the tablet, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, has had a long history of mixing church and state.
Before being appointed to Alabama’s Supreme Court, Moore had a wooden Ten Commandments tablet prominently displayed in his Etowah County courtroom and regularly led the courtroom in prayer.
When an ACLU lawsuit claimed Moore’s practices violated the separation of church and state, Moore compared them to “the Philistine army… that challenged David” and launched a counter-suit in a state court to resolve the legality of official acknowledgements of religion.
Unfortunately for Moore, the United States does not have an official religion.
While Jews and Christians make up a majority of the population, they do not comprise the whole by any means.
America’s diversity encompasses Muslims, Hindus, pagans and a host of other religions, as well as atheists and agnostics.
By Moore’s very act of displaying the Ten Commandments, he is giving preference to one faith over another.
A similar tablet of the commandments stood in a park in Frankfort, Ky. Standing at 6’4″, the sculpture was ruled in a court as “a thinly disguised effort at government endorsement of religion.”
The man who put it there, Sen. Albert Robinson, told the Associated Press that removing the sculpture “ignores the commandments’ historical role infringes on his own practice of his Christian faith.”
While it is true that the Ten Commandments influenced American law, so did the Norman invasion of England.
Does this mean we are to build statues of marauding French kings in city parks?
And does practicing your own faith mean building religious statues in public areas?
It does not, of course.
Places like Alabama and Kentucky have come a long way in the last 40 years and we could hope that they have bravely entered the 21st century with the rest of the nation.
However, a small minority of judges and politicians there still cling to the hope that they can turn America into something resembling a Christian Iran.
These politicians who advocate displaying the Ten Commandments in public spaces are the same ones who support school prayer, an end to the teaching of evolution, restrictions on a woman’s right to choose and public funds going to religious institutions.
Let’s hope that the people of Alabama will wise up and dump Moore.
Neal Ungerleider can be reached at email@example.com