You knew it was coming....
US Supreme Court. Hardcore christians (from Kentucky, this time). ACLU. 10 commandments
:An empty frame now hangs in the lobby of the Pulaski County Courthouse.
Yesterday, the county's judge-executive, Darrell BeShears, sat in the chambers of the nation's highest court, listening to arguments that will help determine whether he can put the Ten Commandments back in that frame....
Those of us that know a little about early US history have an idea of how this has drifted over time. It used to be thought that there was a much stricter seperation between federal & state powers -- and limitations -- than there is today. For example, at one time individual states actually had official religions, as the Establishment clause was thought to only
apply to the federal level. If it weren't for previous court rulings that moved towards an interpretation that the bill of rights applied directly to the states as well as federal, then clearly these people could have their monument....and anything else they wanted no matter how far out. Consider the following:BeShears was among more than 200 Kentuckians in favor of posting the Commandments who traveled to Washington, D.C., to see the case argued before the Supreme Court yesterday...."It was awesome," said Don Swarthout of Lexington, who is president of the advocacy group Christians Reviving America's Values.
Imagine what this group would be advocating if this were 1801.
Now, I've had my own issues with the shifting of constitutional interpretation. Personally I follow constitutional Literalism: what it means is what it says. The ONLY area where actual interpretation beyond what the authors themselves put into practice is not a violation is when the language used is vague & the actions taken based on the language contradict each other, all else is written in stone. As such, the transformation of the term "states' rights" into some code word for bigotry by groups that would love nothing more than to impose their will on the entire country troubles me. Different areas have different standards, and there is nothing wrong with maintaining a marketplace of ideas among localities. Enforcing a uniform standard for everything erases the potential for experimentation.However
, there is still such thing as a reasonable endpoint. If it were determined that the states were completely
untouchable, then the Bill of Rights would essentially be null & void. A scenario where DC can't legally violate your rights but your neighbor can is no less dangerous than one where the states are restrained in exchange for unlimited federal authority. This contradiction has been dealt with over time, reversing earlier precedent.
It can be argued as to whether or not the extent has swung the pendulum too far the other direction -- and I personally believe it has in various ways. Yet on this particular case, the sentiment on the christian side of the dispute sounds like a paen to the previous contradiction. To see what the problem is here, imagine a similar hypothetical but with a different central image, say....firearms: if in the early days localities had been allowed to legitimately ban gun possession, and this precedent were tossed over time, what would be made of a group called "Americans for Traditional Disarmament"?"It's about our heritage. It's about our history," said David Carr, who owns a Christian radio company based in Somerset and helped arrange the bus trip. "It's about the future of our children."
This is a prime example. In casual discussion some in favor of the commandments displays remaining may point out that the commandments simply being there does not enforce a religion, and I would agree with that view. Yet the view of their advocates is not that they aren't for that purpose, as they argue the exact opposite. One could even interpret their stance to mean if they ceased to believe posting the 10 commandments would encourage a Christianification of government that they would find their request meaningless and drop it.Beth Wilson, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said she and one of the four plaintiffs in the lawsuit traveled to Washington together. A small group of friends of the ACLU also came for the occasion. Wilson said the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places infringes on the rights of people who do not subscribe to them.
"The Ten Commandments advocate religious beliefs, and those need to be left to individuals," she said. "Religious freedom can only thrive when the government stays out of it."
Were the primary advocates of the commandments remaining to use the view of them being benign, then this would be overblown. Instead, they admit a long-term strategy to goad government into acting on their beliefs, and that the displays are intended to be the first entry towards that end.
There are cases where I don't see eye-to-eye with the ACLU. This is not one of them.Cross-linked at Outside the Beltway