Fight for Ten Commandments Across America

In December, at a downtown sports arena in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 3,000 people attended a 10 Commandment rally that had the fervor of an old-fashioned tent revival.  The participants prayed, waved American flags, and poured thousands of dollars into collection buckets as they declared themselves Christian soldiers in a war against evil.

As Christian conservatives became energized by the spiritual revival brought on by the September 11 terrorist attacks, this carefully crafted campaign to post the Ten Commandments in public buildings throughout the country has been played out across America.  Church attendance increased 25 percent immediately after the terrorist attacks as many Americans turned to religion.  However, according to a poll by Barna Research Group, which analyzes cultural trends and the Christian Church, by early November, attendance had returned to normal levels of about 48 percent.

In a long-standing battle to erase the line separating church and state which has been wrongly and unconstitutionally thrust upon this nation by judicial activists of the Supreme Court, the Biblical laws, (which some Christians insist should be established as American doctrine) have become a weapon.

For the soul of America, Christian conservatives have declared war on civil libertarians in what some experts say is developing into one of the biggest First Amendment challenges in decades.

In recent months, with dozens of efforts underway defying the U.S. Supreme Court rulings, prohibiting school prayer and the placement of religious symbols in public buildings, the grass root movements that started three years ago in the South have intensified.

To raise money and garner support for local officials who have voted to erect Ten Commandments, plaques, and monuments in city halls, county buildings, and courthouses, the rallies blend patriotism and religion.

Charles Wysong, president of Ten Commandments Tennessee, the advocacy ad fundraising group that sponsored the Chattanooga rally said, “September 11 was a point of demarcation for a renewed interest in this movement.  There is a defiance and an unwillingness on the part of God’s people to be ruled by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  Everyone is tired of their feeble arguments, including the courts, and we’re not listening to them anymore.”

Clergy members are leading student assemblies in prayer, schools are requiring a moment of prayer and government meetings are opening with religious devotionals across the nation.  However, for erecting the Ten Commandments in public venue several  local  Chattanooga Tennessee governments face lawsuits.

To display the Ten Commandments in county buildings and two courthouses, Hamilton County Commissioners in Chattanooga voted to do so on September 11, 2001.    Recently, officials placed in city hall in Ringgold, Georgia, a town near the Tennessee border with a population of 2,000  the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and an empty frame with the engraving, “This is for those of other beliefs.”

In Kentucky, to halt the posting of the Ten Commandments in courthouses, the ACLU has sued four counties.  For the defense, advocates have raised more than $200,000 and hope the case will make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1963, prayer was ordered to be removed from public schools by the Supreme Court.  The court ruled in 1980, that the constitutional prohibition against government established religion was violated by the posting of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky classrooms.  It upheld a city-sponsored Nativity scene in that it was placed among other religious symbols nine years later.

A federal appeals court ruling ordering Elkhart, Indiana to remove a six-foot tall pillar engraved with the Commandments off its town hall lawn was upheld in May by the Supreme Court.  In a public statement, implying that the lower court had erred, three of the court’s conservative justices strongly objected.

For many devout  Christians however, the Ten Commandment movement is about reasserting Christianity as America’s dominant religion, not just about saving souls or the First Amendment.  By some of the nation’s most prominent evangelists, this measure is being preached.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said, “Too many people are promoting the idea that patriotism and religion are identical.  If you raise an objection to some unlawful religious practice in a public place, the people who complain are not only labeled anti-religion, but anti-American.  You would think we learned from September 11 that the merger of government and religion is a dangerous thing.”

The claims were dismissed that the doctrines are divisive and may offend non-Christians by Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, the target of two federal lawsuits for placing a floor foot-tall granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state judicial building in Montgomery.

Justice Moore, the keynote speaker at the rally said, “This is not a nation established on the principles of Buddha or Hinduism.  Our faith is not Islam.  What we follow is not the Koran but the Bible.  This is a Christian nation.”

An American Voice Viewpoint on the following Article:

Amazingly so many that oppose religious freedom in the public arena use the argument of separation between church and state.  Yet the phrase is nowhere to be found in the Constitution.  Thomas Jefferson used the phrase “Thus building a wall of separation between church and State”  in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut.

The first occasion on which the Court declared a separation of church and state in the First Amendment was the Supreme Court announcement in the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Education.   By reversing long-standing national traditions the Court started to unraveling the fabric of American life following the 1947 announcement.  

Barry Lynn said earlier, ” The merger of government and religion is a dangerous thing.” However prior to 1947, Americans feared God, abortion was illegal, children had respect for their parents, illegitimacy and divorce were low, weekly church attendance was a regular habit, husbands and wives respected each other, and criminal activity and improper business activity was less common than it is today.  Contrary to what Mr. Lynn and his supporters say, America was a better nation when God was part of our daily life. 

The Constitution of the United States does protect people of faith to express their right of religious freedom.  The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights clearly states,”  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof .”  Each time the Supreme Court takes this right away from Americans such as student-led prayer at football games, the free expression of religious freedom is violated, and these individuals’ constitutional rights are usurped by the Supreme Court.

(Dahleen Glanton, “Crusading for a Christian nation.  Groups across the country are defying the courts and invoking patriotism as they fight for displays of the 10 Commandments and school prayer,” The Chicago Tribune, December 10, 2001)

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