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BJCPA opposes Ten Commandments displayed at Ala. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs has filed a friend-of the-court brief opposing the display of the Ten Commandments in Alabama’s judicial building in Montgomery.

The 5,000-pound monument in the lobby of the building that houses the state Supreme Court violates the First Amendment clause prohibiting a government establishment of religion, the BJCPA brief contends. The BJCPA filed the brief in a suit brought in federal court in Montgomery against the display by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Alabama affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, placed the monument in the building.

“By displaying the 10 Commandments in the State Judicial Building, Justice Moore has usurped the role of private individuals and faith communities in shaping their own religious practices and views,” the BJCPA brief says. “Governmental efforts to promote religion drain religious practices and beliefs of their spiritual significance, thereby depreciating, rather than revitalizing, religion.”

Joining the BJCPA on the brief were The Interfaith Alliance, the Alabama affiliate of The Interfaith Alliance and the Anti-Defamation League. More than 40 religious leaders also signed on to the brief.

Hollyn Hollman, the BJCPA’s general counsel, said in a written statement the display of the Ten Commandments in a government building “does religion no favors and makes a mockery of the establishment clause’s command that government refrain from giving preference to religion.”

Americans United and the Alabama ACLU field suit in October, about two months after Moore had the display erected. Moore, who was elected chief justice in 2000, became well-known, especially among conservative Christians, after he posted a plaque of the Ten Commandments in his Etowah County courtroom several years ago.

The BJCPA brief was filed the same week a federal judge in Lexington, Ky., refused to order the removal of Ten Commandments displays in two counties. Judge Karl Forrester denied a request by the ACLU for a preliminary injunction that would have resulted in the removal of the displays in Mercer and Rowan counties in Kentucky.

Displays of the commandments in three other Kentucky counties were removed previously at a judge’s order. That decision has been appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Unlike some displays of the Ten Commandments, the ones in Mercer and Rowan counties are part of an overall grouping that includes historical and legal texts, including the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

Liberty Counsel President Matt Staver said Forrester’s decision “begins to turn the tide against the ACLU, [which] has been on a search-and-destroy mission to remove all vestiges of our religious history from public view. The ACLU’s attempts to remove the Ten Commandments from public display are nothing more than historical revisionism at its worst.

“Whether the ACLU likes it or not, history is crystal clear that each one of the Ten Commandments has played an important role in the founding of our system of law and government,” Staver said in a written release. “As long as a governmental entity displays the Ten Commandments together with other historical documents and does so for an educational or historical purpose, such displays will be constitutional.”

Liberty Counsel and the American Center for Law and Justice both represented Mercer County in the case.

The Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Va., has issued suggested guidelines for displaying religious documents on public property, available at the organization’s website, www.rutherford.org. The document is titled “Affirming Religious and Traditional Heritage: Constitutional Guidelines for Displaying Religious Documents on Public Property.”

The ACLU has filed suit in other states, including Maryland and Ohio, in seeking removal of Ten Commandments displays.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CONTROVERSIAL MONUMENT.