Foundation objects to proposed Ten Commandments display in Cape Coral, Fla.

The mayor of Cape Coral [Fla.] has proposed to display the Ten Commandments inside a government building as a “reminder” for citizens to “straighten up.” Freedom From Religion Foundation Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott, on behalf of area residents and taxpayers, wrote a Nov. 12 letter to the mayor and City Council expressing constitutional concerns about the proposed display and related inappropriate remarks by the mayor.

The Foundation, which has been promoting separation between state and church since 1978, has more than 700 members in Florida and 16,000 members nationwide.

“It is a violation of the Establishment Clause for the City of Cape Coral to post the Ten Commandments in the City Hall or any other government buildings,” wrote Elliott in the letter to the city.

Mayor John Sullivan told the Fort Myers News-Press: “I don’t want to do this in a haphazard way or open up a can of worms, but I think it is a good idea. I don’t see this as separation of church and state. Our laws were built on the Ten Commandments. It’s getting back to our core values.”

“Mayor Sullivan supports the display based on an impermissible non-secular purpose,” said Elliott. “Placing the Ten Commandments on public property for the purpose of teaching the community ‘good morals,’ will not withstand court scrutiny.”

Displaying the Ten Commandments in a public building will only alienate and isolate nonbelievers and non-Christians in their own community, Elliott remarked. This is especially grievous, considering 15% of the population identifies as nonreligious (ARIS 2008).

“The First Commandment alone makes it obvious why the Ten Commandments may not be posted by government bodies. The government of Cape Coral has no business telling citizens which god they must have, how many gods they must have, or that they must have any god at all,” Elliott said.

“It is interesting that many Ten Commandments displays refer to Exodus 20:1-17 as the ‘Ten Commandments.’ The Ten Commandments referred to in Exodus 34, differ from Exodus 20:1-17. The Exodus 34 commandments, which are the only set in the bible called the ‘Ten Commandments’ (see Exodus 34:26), conclude with the final commandment, ‘Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk’ (Exodus 34:26). Should the City Council vote to include this commandment in government buildings?”

Elliott requested the “Council protect the Constitution by voting down any Ten Commandment display proposals.

Action Alert

The council may discuss this proposal Monday, Nov. 15, so council members need public feedback now!

Please contact the mayor and city council, and also write a letter to the editor if you have time, objecting to the display in a brief message. You may wish to incorporate some talking points from Elliott’s letter or below. Please also take a moment to vote in the poll from the News-Press (see below).

Talking Points

Such a display is divisive, unconstitutional and turns citizens who are nonreligious or who hold minority religious views into political outsiders in their own community.

The Supreme Court has ruled such religious displays in public buildings as unconstitutional. Displaying the Ten Commandments in a city building constitutes a governmental endorsement of religion.

The proposed display is already creating polarization and divisions in the community, as evidenced by statements such as one by Cape Coral resident Dick Kalfus, who originally proposed the display to the mayor: “It’s good versus evil. People who are good will not hang their hat on this being a political or religious case. They will want to side with morality.”

Our laws are not based on the Ten Commandments, as Mayor Sullivan wrongfully claims. Our entirely secular Constitution makes no reference to any religious text or dogma.

Contact the Mayor & City Council!

John Sullivan, Mayor
P.O. Box 150027
Cape Coral FL 33915 – 0027
[email protected]

City Council
P.O. Box 150027
Cape Coral FL 33915 – 0027
[email protected]

Individual council members’ e-mail addresses can be found here.

Vote in Poll!

Should The Ten Commandments be placed inside Cape Coral City Hall? Vote ‘No!’ by clicking the following link. Scroll about 1/4 down the page and find the poll to the right of the bottom of the story.

Send a letter to the editor

Letters to the editor should be under 200 words, and include your name, address and phone number (for verification).

The News-Press
P.O. Box 10
Fort Myers FL 33902

For more information, see local coverage

For Cape Coral, matter of morality (News-Press)

Action Alert by Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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