Tuesday, June 28, 2005


So the Supreme Court has ruled that it's only permissible for government entities to put up religious displays if they're not really sending a religious message, as in the case of the Texas state capital, where a Ten Commandments monument stood among several dozen other secular monuments. I'm not planning to get worked up about this one either way, but (as is often the case) I am confused by the reaction of some elements of the Religious Right:
Within hours of yesterday's Supreme Court decision allowing a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, Christian groups announced a nationwide campaign to install similar displays in 100 cities and towns within a year. "We see this as an historic opening, and we're going to pursue it aggressively," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, which organized vigils outside the Florida hospice where Terri Schiavo died this year. ...Mahoney said the Texas decision was sufficient to "open up a whole new frontier" for preserving the United States' "Christian heritage."
Presumably, these Christian groups want public buildings to display their Christian monuments for religious purposes, so isn't this exactly the sort of thing that the ruling forbids? And more to the point: why would they want to display their sacred religious symbols in an environment like this? Why put your religious symbols in a position of having to be treated as non-religious? Is this really a victory for your faith?


  1. I have to say this whole issue is something I don't understand. People clutching a monument of the ten commandments as if they're stealing an idol away, acting as if they can't practice their faith without putting religious monuments on government property, etc. Now in good Pharisaical fashion they're trying to violate the spirit of the law by trying to find something that they think can squeak through on the letter of the law, when they'd do much better to promote their faith simply by being good neighbors and submitting to the government authorities as the Bible quite clearly says to do. I find this sort of response thoroughly unChristian.

    None of the above means I think the first amendment prohibits these displays. I want to make it clear that I see no problem constitutionally with these displays. It's what people think they need to do in response to a decision contrary to that view that seems to me to be completely unmotivated.

  2. It reminds me of the "under God" kerfuffle, where the religious side of things kept basically arguing that it didn't have any religious significance and so it was OK to have it in the pledge, which seemed to completely miss the point, since there's no point in having it in there if it doesn't mean anything. And there is particularly no point in violently agitating to have it retained if it means nothing. To me, the atheist/constitutional point of view seems to actually be more acknowledging of the importance of the religious language then the religionists themselves. Which is exactly backwards. Just like this.

  3. Alexis, that's very close to my view on "under God". I think those who are treating it as the end of the world if it's removed are completely nuts, but I'd say the exact same thing about anyone who wants it removed. I think both are important enough points that I would find it regrettable if it is removed, and I'll make that point in any conversation when it comes up, but it's not something anyone should get irate over and certainly not worth all the demonizing that took place. I say that about both sides.

  4. Hey, look everybody! Jeremy and I just agreed about something!