The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the following letter to the Governor of Alabama regarding a proposal to amend the Alabama State Constitution to permit Ten Commandments to be posted in public buildings. The amendment, Senate Bill 83, passed a Senate committee 9-0 on March 6 and goes before the full Senate. It is promoted by Dean Young of the Christian Family Association, one of the supporters of commandment-loving Roy Moore, now state Chief Justice.
Gov. Don Siegelman
Alabama State Capitol
600 Dexter Ave
Montgomery AL 36130
Dear Gov. Siegelman:
On behalf of our Alabama membership, which boasts a very active and concerned state chapter, we are writing to urge you to reconsider your voiced support for Senate Bill 83, to amend the Alabama State Constitution to permit Ten Commandments to be posted in public schools and buildings.
We believe it would reflect poorly on the stature of a governor to endorse a campaign which is so clearly unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Stone v Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 1980, that a Kentucky statute requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms is unconstitutional. As the Court wrote:
"The pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments is undeniably a sacred text in Jewish and Christian faiths, and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact. The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, such as honoring one's parents, killing or murder, adultery, stealing, false witness, and covetousness. Rather, the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord's name in vain, and observing the sabbath day."
Under the U.S. Constitution, a state cannot post and endorse religious edicts from one religion's "holy book." Nor would the U.S. Supreme Court countenance an amendment to Art. 1, Sect. 3 of the Alabama State Constitution which so clearly contradicts the broad religious liberties guaranteed in that section! Posting Ten Commandments by the government violates freedom of conscience, compels citizens to attend and contribute to religious worship and appropriates state property for religious reasons--all forbidden under Art. 1, Sect. 3.
The First Commandment alone makes it obvious why the Ten Commandments may not be posted in public buildings and schoolrooms. Government has no business telling citizens which god they must have, how many gods they must have, or that they must have a god at all!
The proposed amendment raises the thorny question of which Ten would be posted and endorsed by the State of Alabama: the Hebrew, the Catholic or the Protestant version? The only "ten commandments" so identified in the bible lists as its tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk." (Ex 34: 14-28) Does the State of Alabama plan to set itself up as arbiter over which set of commandments is religiously correct?
This campaign by religious extremists serves only to excite prejudices, promote religious divisiveness, distract lawmakers from real issues, and irresponsibly jeopardizes taxpayers' money in an expensive, losing battle.
We urge you to set an example of respect for the constitutional separation of church and state by opposing this misguided measure.