More Information on Alabama SB 181

Senate Bill 181 would embolden local government entities, specifically including public schools, to violate the state and federal constitutions. The bill attempts to avoid the obvious constitutional problems with the conclusory mandate that Ten Commandment displays “compl[y] with constitutional requirements, including, but to limited to, being intermingled with historical or educational items, or both, in a larger display.” This is an attempt to use a 2005 Supreme Court case to justify these displays, but the scheme is deeply misguided. SB 181 has an undeniable purpose of promoting Christianity, which makes it unconstitutional even with an attempt to “water down” the religious message through some “window-dressing” secular items.

The proposed amendment openly anticipates a constitutional challenge and states that no “public funds may be expended in defense of the constitutionality of this amendment.” This is an attempt to placate legislators who don’t want to waste taxpayer funds defending an obviously unconstitutional law, but it’s an empty promise. When a federal court rules against the state, then orders the state to reimburse the opposing side’s legal costs, taxpayers will have to foot that bill no matter what the state Constitution says. Just last month, a governmental body was required to pay more than three quarters of a million dollars after a failed attempt at defending a Ten Commandments monument. 

Finally, this proposed amendment is a waste of time and ink. Ten Commandments monuments that “compl[y] with constitutional requirements” are — obviously — already allowed under current law. Alabama’s Constitution already has more than 900 amendments, and legislators have far more important things to do than telling public schools that they can do what’s already legal.

Passing this bill would needlessly waste more taxpayer money on an issue that has already been litigated and would hand Roy Moore a belated and entirely undeserved victory.

Contact your state senator today to voice your opposition to this patently unlawful bid to inject religion into its government structure.

Freedom From Religion Foundation