Magazine article The Christian Century

Posting Decalogue OK-Sometimes

Magazine article The Christian Century

Posting Decalogue OK-Sometimes

Article excerpt

Advocates for church-state separation generally gave a collective sigh of relief last month when the Supreme Court ruled that the posting of the Ten Commandments inside two Kentucky courthouses is unconstitutional. But at the same time the court, closely divided over displays of the Decalogue on government property, said a monument listing the "shalt nots" outside the state capitol building in Texas is permissible.

"We won more than we lost," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "And I think that many displays, including any that take place in our government-funded schools, will now be clearly forbidden."

At the Baptist Joint Committee office, general counsel K. Hollyn Hollman said that the two decisions uphold "the neutrality principle" of government toward religions. Activists who favor religious displays on public grounds "should know they are on shaky ground," she said.

The wall of separation, for now, is intact but it is "no longer secure in the present environment," cautioned C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, who said he was troubled by the ruling in the Texas case.

Disappointment was voiced by the Christian right. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the decisions made public on June 27 "solve nothing." He predicted that the high court justices would continue to pick and choose "which displays offend them and which they deem worthy."

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, issued a strongly worded condemnation, saying a "religious witch hunt ... has infected virtually every level of our government."

A Pew Forum poll in August found that 72 percent of Americans said it is proper to display the Ten Commandments on public property. Even among self-described "nonevangelical white Protestants," 75 percent found it proper. …

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