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Overt Endorsement of Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments. It amazes me how these ancient tribal guidelines came to be stamped as not only holy, but also erroneously the source of American law by some who donâ??t even interpret all of the commandments in the manner in which they were intended.

As explained by Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

Most of them do not even have a parallel in the civil law of this country. We don't have laws against coveting your neighbor's S.U.V. or Prius or anything in between; if we did, we would have hundreds of thousands of people in a federal penitentiary. We donâ??t have blasphemy laws. Very few states even have laws against adultery. We don't make Sabbath worship or failing to worship on some Sabbath a crime.

So, our Constitution and our secular laws are not based on the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were not used by the framers of the Constitution in creating the secular democracy that we have.

There is no doubt that these commandments taken as a whole make a Judeo/Christian statement. Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive questions the recent Supreme Court decision regarding government Ten Commandments displays:

It said that it was OK for Texas to have a six-foot high monument of the Ten Commandments on the capitol grounds in Austin but it was not OK to have framed copies of the commandments in Kentucky courthouses.

For the life of me, I can't detect a logical foundation for ruling one way in Texas and another way in Kentucky.

Marci Hamilton of FindLaw wrote a detailed column today offering explanation. Specifically:

Observers may wonder: How can the Court say one display is constitutional and the other is not? It's the same Ten Commandments.

The answer is that as in most government speech cases under the Establishment Clause, context is everything. To be constitutional, the Court made clear, a government Ten Commandments display must be part of a presentation that is educational or historical - not religious. In addition, the government may not overtly endorse any part of the display.

In the case of the Kentucky display, the county government clearly intended to push a particular religious idea. For some, the context or intent wasnâ??t as clear-cut in the Texas case.

If the government was not overtly endorsing the Texas display, what is meant by â??overtly endorseâ?? Could government workers circumvent â??overt endorsementâ? by covertly passing on Christian fish symbols to passersby?

Is not simply allowing its six-foot presence on display considered blatant endorsement?

Apparently not.

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