Both houses of the Georgia Legislature have passed a bill authorizing the placement of a privately funded monument containing the Ten Commandments. It is now awaiting the signature of Governor Deal. In addition to the Decalogue, the proposed monument will also include the sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”, which is, of course, from the Declaration of Independence. This sentence is one of the Religious Right’s favorite founding father quotes, and nearly the only quote from Thomas Jefferson they find acceptable.
Though privately funded, it is our opinion and that of the national organization, that this monument would be an impermissible endorsement of a religion. By authorizing the placement of this monument on state owned property (and failing to authorize similar monuments from other religious or secular traditions) the legislature is showing a very definite preference for one religious tradition over all others, and thus runs afoul of the establishment clause of the first amendment. Neither our legal system, nor our form of government is based on the Decalogue; and the Declaration of Independence, though of historical interest, has no legal force in our current government. Furthermore, any attempt to legislate most of the Decalogue such as by keeping the sabbath holy, forcing children to “honor thy mother and father” forcing the worship of the god of the Old Testament, forbidding the making of “idols” or forbidding the coveting of your neighbors property, would be met with resistance, even from the vast majority of religious believers. Our government owes far more to the ideas of John Locke, the ancient Athenians and the Roman Republic than it does to Moses or the ancient Hebrews.
Legal scholars contend that, based on precedent, there is an excellent chance that this bill will be ruled unconstitutional by federal courts. It is likely that if the bill is signed by the Governor, it will only be struck down after long and expensive litigation. The economic bill for striking down this legislative bill will, of course, be paid by the taxpayers of Georgia, not the legislators who proposed and voted for it. We believe those legislators know that the bill has very little chance of standing up to constitutional scrutiny, but are willing to waste taxpayer dollars tilting at windmills in order to gain votes from their religious right constituents.
If you are a Georgia resident, please contact Governor Deal and try to dissuade him from signing this divisive and expensive bill.