Schools May Display Ten Commandments: Link Must Be to `Law, History and Culture'
McCain, Robert Stacy, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
An advisory opinion that South Carolina public schools may display the Ten Commandments is intended to avoid conflicts over religion in schools, the state Attorney General's Office said yesterday.
Such displays are permitted "if they are part of an exhibit intended to teach students about law, history and culture," South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon, a Republican, said in an opinion issued Monday.
"Contrary to popular belief, placement of the Ten Commandments in the public schools is not necessarily illegal," the opinion said, "and there are a number of contexts in which placement of the Ten Commandments on school property would be legal."
Mr. Condon's opinion was issued in response to a state legislator's inquiry on the legality of posting the Ten Commandments in schools, a spokesman for the attorney general said, but went beyond that request to summarize recent federal court rulings on several issues involving religion and public schools.
"Since school is beginning, and there are always questions of this sort raised during the school year, [Mr. Condon] not only replied to that question, he also gave his opinion on a number of other related questions," said spokesman Tom Landess.
"What he's doing is not so much an attempt to make new law as to give a status report on the current legal questions on the relation of religion and school, to lay down some guidelines," he said.
Steve Bates, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the opinion goes too far.
"[Mr. Condon] is advocating going full steam ahead in areas that, first of all, are not fully settled in law, but perhaps more importantly, without carefully outlining the specific ways in which students may exercise their individual rights of religious freedom. …