A Bill to Voluntarily Post the Ten Commandments
in Public Schools

Preliminary approval was given by Virginia lawmakers to a measure that would allow voluntarily posting of the Ten Commandments as well as other documents by public schools. 

The state Board of Education would be required by the measure to write guidelines for displaying the Ten Commandments in classrooms, along with the text from three documents:  the First Amendment, the Declaration Of Independence and the Virginia Constitution.

On February 7, 2002, the Virginia House Of Delegates approved the measure with a 53-44 vote.

Originally, only the Ten Commandments was to be included in the measure.  However, it was amended to include the other documents.  The measure did not appear to violate the Constitutionally required separation of church and state said the state attorney general’s office.

It would be inappropriate to post the Ten Commandments next to the other documents since the bill is about religion argued opponents.  Delegate Albert Pollard (Democrat) said,  “Here we are taking a sacred document and we’re putting it next to worthy but secular documents and, in my mind, trivializing it.  In my mind, they are not worthy of being placed next to the word of God.”  On the other hand, the Commandments outline widely accepted values said Delegate Robert Marshall (Republican): “It’s curious to me how a precept against stealing would harm a child, except maybe one who wants to steal.”

However, on February 14, 2002, after Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (sponsor of the bill) was grilled by the Senate Education and Health Committee, a 9-6 vote by the committee members killed the measure.  Their concern was over his intent on submitting legislation similar to a Kentucky law that in 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional.

(Larry O’Dell, “Va. Lawmakers OK Decalogue Bill,”  The Associated Press, February 8, 2002; “Senate panel kills Ten Commandments in schools,” The Associated Press, February 14, 2002)

 

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