The purpose of Our Conscience weblog is to facilitate a greater discussion and understanding of church and state separation in our community and in others. Underlying this is the value that each individual should be allowed to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience without influence, coercion, or direction from the State when it comes to matters of religion.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Are the Ten Commandments at the Supreme Court Legal?

Our Conscience

Question: The Ten Commandments are displayed at the High Court, do you want them removed along with all public religious speech?

Answer: I have no problem with public religious expression or speech as long as the government is not mandating or directing it. The displays at the Supreme Court depict secular and religious lawgivers in order to depict the history of law not a governmental preference of religion(s).

At the Supreme Court Moses is depicted with Islamic prophet Muhammad, Chinese lawgiver Confucius, and Greek legislator Solon. The frieze over the east entrance of the Supreme Court features Moses holding blank tablets. In the ceiling of the court Moses has two tablets, in Hebrew, with the 6th through 10th commandments partially visible. These displays depict the history of law not a governmental promotion of religion nor do they depict one of the three variations of the Ten Commandments (i.e. Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish). Courts look at the intent of the display as well as the context and content to determine if the government is promoting religion.

Citizens may promote religion whenever they want. The Establishment clause only limits the actions of government not its citizens. It leaves the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom in the hands of the people, precisely where it belongs.


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