The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today on a case coming out of Kentucky in which
the ACLU is arguing that the placing of the Ten Commandments as part of a "Foundations of American Law and Government" display on public property (which inlcudes the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, etc.) violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against laws "respecting an establishment of religion." Larry J. Obhof thinks this will be an easy case for the Supreme Court to decide. And here is my take on the issue, which The Columbus Dispatch published this morning.
The Ashbrook Center, with Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, filed an Amicus Brief (PDF file, 38 pp.) on behalf of the petitioners in
McCreary County v. ACLU.
Would that Mr. Obhof were right. History, if it is any predictor, would demonstrate that he probably is not. In his Essay XV, the Anti-Federalist Brutus prophesied: "They have made the judges independent, in the fullest sense of the word. There is no power above them to control any of their decisions. There is no authority that can remove them, and they cannot be controled by the laws of the legislature. In short, they are independent of the people, of the legislature, and of every power under heaven. Men placed in this situation will generally soon feel themselves independent of heaven itself."
Yesterdays death penalty case, including the judicial history detailed in the majority opinion, is good evidence of Brutuss accuracy. Todays Ten Commandment cases likely will demonstrate that at least five of these justices (and, by the way, will also demonstrate that Brutuss prophecy is not the least undermined by the insertion of women onto the Court) view themselves, not only as independent of heaven itself, but as charged with the responsibility of breaking the bonds of heaven for all the rest of us as well.
Although my pessimism does not color my view of heavens inevitable victory in this battle, it surely does cause me to believe that the victory will not come in the context of the survival of this democratic republic.
As a final note, it is probably only fair to observe that anyone who reads Brutus must admit that we cant say we were not warned.
Great op-ed Peter!
In favor of the Ten Commandments we have history - that is to say clear precedent in deed and in law. Unfortunately, this is a mere trifle next to the burning desire of OConnor and Kennedy to read nice things about their "evolution" in the New York Times and the Washington Compost. The Supreme Court building needs to be moved to Cheyenne, or better yet, Houston. Once relocated, it should be staffed by local farmers, janitors, pipe fitters, or the first nine people in the Cheyenne phone book. I would wager that these nine, randomly selected, could read the Constitution just fine, while manfully resisting exercises in creative writing like Roe vs Wade et al. Anyone could do a better job protecting the Constitution than the current professional sophists.
I think we must insist on states rights in this matter. The Constitution does not give the Federal Government the right to secularize state governments...indeed, they are free to establish religion if they so choose.
Let them strip Federal buildings of all religious symbols, so long as the sovereignty of states is recognized.
C.S. Lewiss comment from The Abolition of Man comes to mind as I reflect on the attempt to gut American history and its governments of their religious underpinnings: "In a sort of ghastly simplicty we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."
More needs to be said about the probelm with defending religious symbols and the like on government property as if they were not religious, the latest strategy of those who think they cannot be defended on their own terms in a pluralistic society. Again, C.S. Lewis: "The real objection is that if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be." Woe to those who allow themselves to be treated as such by their rulers.