Fighting over the Ten

June 21, 2011

Back in February, I noted the controversy surrounding the back-and-forth decisions on whether or not to post copies of the Ten Commandments in Giles County public schools in Virginia. Unfortunately, the debate continues as earlier this month the school board voted to reverse their earlier decision (that reversed an even earlier decision) to in fact post the Ten Commandments. The 3-2 vote will likely spark a costly lawsuit against the County. Two Kentucky counties that lost lawsuits after posting displays of the Ten Commandments are struggling to pay a joint legal bill of $450,000. As one of the school board members who voted against the proposal said:

I love my country and these documents, but we do not have the money to take this to the Supreme Court.
Beside the issue of wasting money that could instead be spent on educating children, the problem with the decision is that it violates the spirit of the First Amendment--which protects the right of churches to post the Ten Commandments but not the right of the government to do so. As the other school board member who voted against the proposal said:
This issue creates a great conflict between what is in my heart as opposed to my mind. ... I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of this great country. ... Personally, I feel this issue violates the Constitution.
He describes the issue well as a conflict between heart and mind. It is not that there is something wrong with the Ten Commandments. Rather, they are commands we should know and follow. Yet, we must be careful not to use the government to establish our faith. True religion must be truly and freely chosen. The Roanoke Times responded to the vote with a good column noting that in America Christians are not persecuted. The piece concludes that religious freedoms in America must be praised and upheld:
Drawing a bright line of separation between church and state has not hurt religion in America. We would argue it has strengthened it.
Amen!

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