Ten Commandments Issue Unresolved
In a move which commentators say leaves the issue unresolved on a national level, the Supreme Court of the United States has decided not to hear a case involving the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on public property. The case involved a granite monument containing the text of the Ten Commandments, which in 1958 was placed on the lawn outside of the city hall in Elkhart, Indiana. In 1998, two citizens sued the city claiming that the Ten Commandments monument was unconstitutional. By declining to hear the case, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively left in place a court of appeals ruling that the monument was unconstitutional. But because the court of appeals ruling only applies to the 7th federal circuit, commentators point out that what is now currently illegal there may be legal in other parts of the country. However, the majority of the Supreme Court should have listened to Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Thomas, who wrote separately that the case should have been heard, and the Ten Commandments monument should be found constitutional. Such a decision would have helped to turn the tide of this country’s spiritual and cultural erosion, and would have been in complete agreement with historical tradition.
Another Indiana Case Similar to Elkhart
Another case with facts similar to Elkhart was Indiana Civil Liberties Union v. O'Bannon, 259 F.3d 766 (7th Cir.2001). Decided on July 27, 2001, that decision provided another interesting example as to why the Ten Commandments, as a historical document, should be displayed alongside other historical documents that serve as signposts to the history of the United States, especially the founding era (Colonial, Revolutionary, and Young Republican periods).
The facts of the case were as follows:
"As detailed in Books [v. City of Elkhart], 235 F.3d at 294-95, the Fraternal Order of the Eagles donated plaques inscribed with a version of the Ten Commandments (developed by representatives of Judaism, Protestantism, and Catholicism) to communities across the United States during the 1950s. In 1958, one of the plaques was erected on the Indiana Statehouse grounds in downtown Indianapolis, where it stood until smashed by a vandal in 1991. Indiana State Representative Brent Steele arranged for the creation of a new monument to replace the destroyed plaque. The Indiana Limestone Institute generously agreed to donate both limestone and labor for this purpose. Steele, also an attorney, surmised that it would be legally prudent if, in addition to the Ten Commandments, the new monument displayed historical texts. The texts he chose were the Bill of Rights from the United States Constitution and the Preamble to the 1851 Indiana Constitution.
The planned monument consists of two pieces of limestone--a four-sided
block resting upon a rectangular base--and will weigh 11,500 pounds. The two
wider sides of the four-sided block are carved into rounded arcs at the top,
which resemble tablets, a form typically used in artistic depictions of the
stone tablets delivered by Moses upon returning from Mt. Sinai. The monument
will stand seven feet tall; six feet, seven inches wide; and four feet, seven
inches deep. On one of the wide surfaces, the following version of the Ten
Commandments will be engraved in one inch, all capital lettering:
I. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me
II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
III. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
IV. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy
V. Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee
VI. Thou shalt not kill
VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery
VIII. Thou shalt not steal
IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house or wife or anything that is thy
The other wide surface will display the Bill of Rights in five-eighths inch, all capital lettering. On one of the smaller sides the 1851 Indiana Constitution Preamble will be inscribed, which states:
To the end, that justice be established, public order maintained, and liberty perpetuated: We, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to Almighty God for the free exercise of the right to choose our own form of government, do ordain this Constitution.
1851 Preamble will not be clearly identified as such. The other small side will
Gift of the Indiana Limestone Industry---2000 A.D.
monument replaces one donated by the Aeries and Auxiliaries of the Indiana
Fraternal Order of the Eagles on October 25, 1958"
Liberties Union v. O'Bannon, 259 F.3d 766, 768-769 (7th
Cir.2001) (BAUER, Circuit Judge).
context of the particular fact situation in O'Bannon, the Ten
Commandments plaque served as a signpost on the map of national and state
history--one of the monuments commemorating significant persons, texts, or
events in the history of the nation and the state:
[Indiana Statehouse] grounds are surrounded by Ohio Street to the north,
Washington Street to the south, Capitol Avenue to the east, and Senate Avenue to
the west. There are numerous monuments currently on the grounds, including two
monuments honoring the civil engineering of the National Road (U.S. Highway 40),
a marker honoring the women of Indiana, two friezes depicting Civil War scenes,
a marker describing the Statehouse's history, and statues of Christopher
Columbus, George Washington, a coal miner, and Indiana Governors Thomas A.
Hendricks and Oliver H.P. Morton."
F.3d at 769 (BAUER, Circuit Judge).
The original Ten Commandments monument, a plaque established in 1958, had been destroyed by vandals. The state of Indiana wanted to replace the previously-established monument that had been standing ever since 1958. In that context, COFFEY, Circuit Judge, wrote a dissenting opinion explaining why the Ten Commandments monument should have been re-installed. His opinion is well worth reading.
Judge COFFEY's dissenting opinion in Indiana Civil Liberties Union v. O'Bannon, 259 F.3d 766, 773-781 (7th Cir. 2001) (with the exception of footnote 1) is given below. The opinion of the court (BAUER, Circuit Judge) has been omitted.
LIBERTIES UNION v. O'BANNON 259 F.3d 766 (7th
Cir. 2001) United States Court of
Seventh Circuit. [* * * * *]
Argued Jan. 9, 2001.
Decided July 27, 2001.
259 F.3d 766 (7th
United States Court of Appeals,
[* * * * *]
Circuit Judge, dissenting.
not disagree with the majority's presentation of the facts at issue before us.
The state of Indiana plans to erect a monument on Indiana Statehouse grounds
that is to be engraved on various sides with the Ten Commandments, the Bill of
Rights, and the Preamble to the Indiana Constitution ("Preamble") on
its sides. The plan to erect the monument originated after vandals destroyed a
monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments, which had previously stood on the
Statehouse grounds since 1958. I respectfully dissent because I believe that
applying Lemon and its progeny should lead us to the conclusion that
the proposed monument by the State of Indiana is not constitutionally prohibited
under the Establishment Clause.
I. Lemon Test
In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 29 L.Ed.2d 745 (1971), the Supreme Court adopted a three-part test for analyzing Establishment Clause cases. Initially, the government's challenged practice must have a secular purpose. Second, the principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion. Third, the government's practice must not create an excessive entanglement of religion. Because the third prong is not at issue, the discussion focuses on the first two prongs.
The Lemon test
continues to be criticized. See, e.g., Sante Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe,
530 U.S. 290, 120 S.Ct. 2266, 2284-85, 147 L.Ed.2d 295 (2000) (Rehnquist, C.J.,
dissenting); Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free Sch. Dist.,
508 U.S. 384, 398-99, 113 S.Ct. 2141, 124 L.Ed.2d 352 (Scalia, J., concurring in
judgment); Committee for Pub. Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Regan,
444 U.S. 646, 671, 100 S.Ct. 840, 63 L.Ed.2d 94 (1980) (Stevens, J.,
dissenting). Although the Lemon test remains the framework under which
we analyze an Establishment Clause issue, I believe it helpful to always bear in
mind the text of the First Amendment, which is fundamental and clear:
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
U.S. Const., amend. I (emphasis added).
The Establishment Clause was intended to prohibit the establishment of a national church and also to prohibit the Federal Government from preferring one religious denomination over others. See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 113, 105 S.Ct. 2479, 86 L.Ed.2d 29 (1985) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). It was never intended to "build a wall of separation" between government and religion. See id. at 98, 105 S.Ct. 2479 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). The wholesome neutrality guaranteed by the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses does not dictate the obliteration of all the nation's religious traditions. Indeed, as the Supreme Court has noted, "no significant segment of our society and no institution within it can exist in a vacuum or in total or absolute isolation from all the other parts, much less from government." Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 673, 104 S.Ct. 1355, 79 L.Ed.2d 604 (1984). The Constitution does not "require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any." Id. (emphasis added). [* * * ] [footnote 1 is omitted]
and legal scholars agree that the Lemon test has led to inconsistent
results. See Wallace,
472 U.S. at 110-11, 105 S.Ct. 2479 (Rehnquist, J. dissenting) (discussing
inconsistencies brought about by the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause
jurisprudence). It is possible to pick and choose from the myriad of case law
dealing with the Establishment Clause to find case law to suit each and every
position on any given factual situation. For example, public monuments invoking
the deity offend the Constitution, but mottos emblazoned on coins or religious
language contained in Constitutions or in the Bill of Rights do not. Teenagers
may not participate in school-organized prayer at football games, but Congress,
the courts, and state legislatures may open sessions with a prayer. In the end,
the Court annually picks the winners and losers in a game of free-exercise
roulette, expanding or contracting the Establishment Clause as it sees fit to
permit or deny the claimed exemption in a given term. Nevertheless, I
acknowledge without hesitation that we are bound to apply Lemon, though
I contend that no matter how the test is applied in the factual situation before
us, the proposed monument can withstand constitutional scrutiny.
Under Lemon, the government's challenged practice must have a secular purpose. In determining whether a secular purpose exists, the Supreme Court merely requires that the displays not be "motivated wholly by religious considerations." Lynch, 465 U.S. at 680, 104 S.Ct. 1355. This monument consists of three sides--two of which are completely secular in nature. Simply because some religious meaning is conveyed by a monument does not destroy a state's valid secular purposes for its display. See Lynch, 465 U.S. at 680, 104 S.Ct. 1355; Bridenbaugh v. O'Bannon, 185 F.3d 796, 800 (7th Cir.1999).
The majority concludes that "[t]he Ten Commandments is still an inherently religious text, and . . . that the State [of Indiana] has not articulated a valid secular justification for planning to erect the monument." The Commandments are a "sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths," concerning, in part, the "religious duties of believers." Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 41-42, 101 S.Ct. 192, 66 L.Ed.2d 199 (1980). But neither Stone, nor any other Supreme Court decision for that matter, even suggests that the Ten Commandments are without a secular significance. Indeed, Stone noted that "integrated into the school curriculum" the Commandments "may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, [or] ethics." Id. at 42, 101 S.Ct. 192.
The text of the Ten Commandments "no doubt has played a role in the secular development of our society and can no doubt be presented by the government as playing such a role in our civic order." Books v. City of Elkhart, 235 F.3d 292, 302 (7th Cir.2000). Six of the Ten Commandments are, in fact, wholly secular, and form the basis of much of our modern codes of criminal conduct. The historic, secular nature of the Ten Commandments is recognized inside the walls of the United States Supreme Court, one of which is adorned with a frieze that contains Moses holding the Ten Commandments, alongside other historic figures, both religious and secular. See County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U.S. 573, 652, 109 S.Ct. 3086, 106 L.Ed.2d 472 (1989) (Stevens, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Justice Stevens stated that the placement of these historic figures together on the frieze signals a respect for great lawgivers, not great proselytizers, which is a fitting message for the wall of a courtroom. See id. at 652-53, 109 S.Ct. 3086. If the Ten Commandments properly convey a secular message when adorning the wall of a Federal Courtroom, I cannot understand how the State of Indiana's proposed placement of the three-sided monument amidst twelve other secular symbols of the nation's legal and cultural history fails to similarly convey a secular message. I do not understand why the majority reasons that but four lines on the monument (those four Commandments that reference God) so overshadow the remainder of the monument (which includes the Bill of Rights and the Preamble to the Indiana Constitution) such that the majority concludes the monument has no secular purpose whatsoever.
Here, the State of Indiana has architecturally blended the text of the Ten Commandments with two other important legal texts--the United States Bill of Rights and the Preamble to the Indiana Constitution (not to mention the twelve other secular monuments with which it would share the Statehouse lawn). The explicit language of the Preamble further reflects the secular message of the monument. The Preamble to the Indiana constitution states three goals: 1) for "justice [to] be established"; 2) for "public order [to be] maintained"; and 3) for "liberty [to be] perpetuated". The three goals espoused by the Preamble, reinforced by the freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights, clearly serve to secularize the monument, memorializing the cornerstones of our civilization's law.
The majority somehow suggests that the design and construction of the monument belies any intention to convey a secular message. Respectfully, I am forced to disagree. It seems to me that the majority is overly concerned with the design of the monument. This court, nor any other court, should not be in the business of monument design. If the State of Indiana believes that it is aesthetically pleasing (or more conducive to conveying a historical message) to erect the monument as designed, it should be permitted to do so without the court making the assumption based only on a foundation of quicksand that a reasonable observer will glance only at a single side or glance only at the side bearing the larger letters. I believe that a court's inquiry should focus on the reasonable observer viewing the display in its entirety, and not on an observer's potential misperception of an isolated aspect of the display. When any person focuses on only one particular aspect of a monument or display to the exclusion of the other aspects it will distort even the most reasonable observer's opinion. It seems far more reasonable to assume that a person taking the time to gaze upon the beautiful edifice will look at all three sides, and draw conclusions from the whole--which presents three important steps in the development of the law as they affect 1) the people of the world; 2) the citizens of the United States; and 3) the citizens of the State of Indiana.
Further, because the Preamble to the Indiana Constitution would occupy the smaller side of the monument between the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights, its message, "that justice be established, public order maintained, and liberty perpetuated," would link the Ten Commandments with the Bill of Rights and convey a secular message of the fundamental legal principles which form the basis of our national history and culture.
Indiana Governor O'Bannon explicitly articulated the secular purpose of the monument, stating that it was to be "an integral part of the Statehouse setting, which honors the history of our state and our nation." The Governor's March 14, 2000, press release further stated that the Ten Commandments "stood on the Statehouse lawn as a reminder of some of our nation's core values . . . [and that] [s]oon those words will stand alongside the abiding principals of our form of government, especially its protections of individual rights. They're ideals we all need to be reminded of from time to time."
We are "normally deferential" to "articulation[s] of secular purpose," so long as they are "sincere and not a sham." Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 586-87, 107 S.Ct. 2573, 96 L.Ed.2d 510 (1987). "This is in keeping with the well settled maxim that courts are 'reluctan[t] to attribute unconstitutional motives to the States, particularly when a plausible secular purpose for the State's program may be discerned . . . .'" Cohen v. City of Des Plaines, 8 F.3d 484, 489 (7th Cir.1993) (quoting Mueller v. Allen, 463 U.S. 388, 394-95, 103 S.Ct. 3062, 77 L.Ed.2d 721 (1983)).
The majority attempts to downplay Governor O'Bannon's press release, stating that reminding society of its "core values" is akin to the purpose of providing a "code of conduct" rejected in Books. But this is not the same case as Books, and "[e]very government practice must be judged in its unique circumstances . . . ." Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 595, 109 S.Ct. 3086. In Books, the only text set forth on the single monument at issue was that of the Ten Commandments. In the factual situation before us, the Ten Commandments stands joined with the Bill of Rights and the Preamble to the Indiana Constitution, thus linking the three texts and conveying a secular message regarding our nation's legal history. The Governor's well-reasoned message in his press release cannot and should not be construed as shallow words without meaning or sincerity.
Nevertheless, the majority here, partially based on the recent decision in Books, 235 F.3d at 303-04, seems to go out of its way to second guess Governor O'Bannon's stated purpose for the proposed monument in an attempt to discredit that purpose. The Governor (and also the Elkhart City Council, in Books) should be presumed to have fulfilled the duties of his office with honesty and integrity. There is not one iota of evidence of insincerity here, and in my opinion no justification for the majority's refusal to give credit to the state's articulated purpose. See, e.g., American Jewish Congress v. City of Chicago, 827 F.2d 120, 127 (7th Cir.1987) (relying on affidavit from mayor's chief of staff stating secular reasons to attract visitors to downtown businesses and to take official note of Christmas to find a secular reason behind a nativity display and noting "the absence of any evidence that the city's stated purposes behind the display of the nativity scene are merely a sham"); Bridenbaugh, 185 F.3d at 799 (relying on testimony offered during litigation as to Indiana's purpose for giving employees a Good Friday holiday).
believe that the proposed monument conveys a secular message that honors and
pays due homage to our nation's legal history. Accordingly, I would hold that
the monument satisfies the first prong of the Lemon test requiring a
valid secular purpose.
Principal or Primary Effect
The second prong of Lemon focuses on whether the government's practice has the principal or primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. v. City of Marshfield, 203 F.3d 487, 493 (7th Cir.2000). Under this prong we ask only in the case before us whether an "objective observer" would perceive the display as a state endorsement of religion. See Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 308, 120 S.Ct. 2266, 147 L.Ed.2d 295 (2000). The appropriate inquiry is thus, whether a citizen knowing the totality of the facts and circumstances surrounding the placement of the proposed monument would believe that the State of Indiana and its officials seek to endorse, rather than merely respect and tolerate, religion by placing it on the Statehouse lawn. See Capitol Square Review and Advisory Bd. v. Pinette, 515 U.S. 753, 777, 115 S.Ct. 2440, 132 L.Ed.2d 650 (1995) (O'Connor, J., concurring). "A policy which tolerates religion, [however], does not improperly endorse it." Chandler v. Siegelman, 230 F.3d 1313, 1317 (11th Cir.2000) (emphasis in original).
Even recent decisions of the Supreme Court have looked favorably upon the constitutionality of government displays of purely religious symbols--a creche and a menorah--when those symbols were part of a larger display, as in the factual situation before us. See Lynch, 465 U.S. at 686, 104 S.Ct. 1355; Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 617-18, 109 S.Ct. 3086; see also Books, 235 F.3d at 316-18 (Manion, J., dissenting) (discussing Lynch and Allegheny). The Court's guidance appears to be that where the religious display--the creche in Allegheny--stood alone, it violated the Establishment Clause. Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 598-99, 109 S.Ct. 3086.
As Lynch and Allegheny teach, the inquiry into whether the display of a religious symbol violates the Establishment Clause turns upon the context in which the symbol appears. In this case, the Ten Commandments is not the only text to be inscribed on the monument, but instead is only one portion of the display, to be accompanied [by] the Bill of Rights and the Preamble to the State of Indiana's Constitution.
The majority curiously suggests, however, that an observer who views the entire display may reasonably believe that it links religion and law since the Bill of Rights and the Preamble are near the Commandments. The cases the majority cites for this proposition are distinguishable. In Books, 235 F.3d 292, and Harris v. City of Zion, 927 F.2d 1401 (7th Cir.1999), the religious symbol was directly linked to a governmental symbol--an American Eagle gripping the national colors atop a plaque inscribed with the Ten Commandments and a Latin cross surrounded by other symbols of city life on a municipality's corporate seal. Here the monument does not join government symbols (such as the American Eagle or a municipality's seal) with religious symbols or text.
Moreover, the layout of monuments that adorn the Statehouse lawn also serves to diminish any perceived endorsement of religion that may allegedly flow from the monument at issue. The proposed monument would share the Statehouse lawn with twelve other monuments--all wholly secular in nature, thereby emphasizing the secular aspects not only of the proposed monument but of the entire designated area. For instance, among the twelve other monuments are busts and statues of historic figures--Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Robert Dale Owen. There are statues of former Indiana Governors Thomas A. Hindricks and Oliver H.P. Morton. There are monuments commemorating historic events and ideals of liberty--two Civil War friezes and two monuments dedicated to the National Road. There is also a statue of a coal miner to honor Indiana's coal mining history and a marker honoring the Statehouse itself. In short the Statehouse lawn is an area dedicated to monuments that pay due homage to both the state's and the nation's history that serves to situate the monument in an appropriate cultural and historical context.
As the Supreme Court clearly noted in Lynch, in applying the second prong of the Lemon test a court should not focus exclusively on the religious symbol, but within the context in which the symbol appears. Lynch, 465 U.S. at 680, 104 S.Ct. 1355. In Lynch, the Court allowed the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island to erect a holiday display that included a creche depicting the nativity scene where that creche was surrounded with other secular symbols, such as reindeer, Santa Claus, candy-striped poles, teddy bears, among others. Lynch, 465 U.S. at 671, 104 S.Ct. 1355. Here, the context of the proposed monument, placed amongst the twelve other secular markers honoring Indiana's and the nation's history, only serves to reinforce the secular nature of the monument in question as set forth and clearly delineated in Governor O'Bannon's press release. The twelve secular monuments that would share the Statehouse lawn with the proposed monument create a museum-like setting that effectively and persuasively does away with any conceivable endorsement of religion that would flow from the proposed monument.
majority suggests that the other monuments would be too far away to contribute
to the secular message of the proposed monument. I fail to see what effect the
distance between the monuments upon the very beautiful plot of land has upon our
analysis. Indeed the proposed monument is not given a special place on the
Statehouse lawn any more than any of the other memorial edifices. Instead, it
would be merely just one of a number (12) of monuments on the lawn. In my view,
the vastness of the grounds, coupled with the number and diversity of the
subject matter of the monuments, dilutes even the slightest perceived
endorsement of religion flowing from the proposed monument. Accordingly, I
conclude that the proposed monument does not constitute an endorsement of
religion. Because it also satisfies and fits within the parameters of the other
prongs of Lemon, I would further hold that it does not violate the
II. Historical Practices
Even if the proposed monument was found not to satisfy the requirements of Lemon, which I am convinced it does, I still would dissent from the majority's opinion. Where a religious symbol has a landmark foundation and meaning in the history of our country the Supreme Court has side-stepped the strictures of Lemon to avoid a result contrary to the clear intent of the Framers of the Constitution. Then-Justice Rehnquist discussed at length the history and intent of the Framers who crafted the First Amendment in Wallace, 472 U.S. at 95-114, 105 S.Ct. 2479 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). I share in the view that the First Amendment was never intended to be read in a wholly secular fashion, as if its objective were to remove all religious expression from the public square and to prefer irreligion over religion.
Our Nation's history is replete with religious symbols "linked" in some way to the government. Indeed, George Washington, at the request of the Congress that passed the Bill of Rights, proclaimed, Thanksgiving to be a day of "prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God." See id., 472 U.S. at 113, 105 S.Ct. 2479. Washington further declared Thanksgiving "to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficial author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be . . . [and] that we may all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for his kind care and protection of the people of this country . . . and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us . . . and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions . . . to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue . . . and to grant all mankind a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows best." George Washington, Proclamation: A National Thanksgiving (reprinted in 5 Founders' Constitution 94). Similarly, Thomas Jefferson signed treaties with Indian tribes that provided annual cash support in order for a Roman Catholic priest to provide services for the tribes. Wallace, 472 U.S. at 103, 105 S.Ct. 2479.
Washington's and Jefferson's examples have been followed as the practice of
Congressional prayer has continued uninterrupted since the very first Congress.
Moreover, each Congress elects (and pays a salary to) a Chaplain to preside over
this practice. See Marsh v. Chambers,
463 U.S. 783, 788-89 & n.10, 103 S.Ct. 3330, 77 L.Ed.2d 1019 (1983). The
Supreme Court (and this court) open their sessions with an declaration that
states "God save the United States and this Honorable Court." Marsh,
463 U.S. at 786, 103 S.Ct. 3330; Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306,
312-13, 72 S.Ct. 679, 96 L.Ed. 954 (1952). Numerous other governmental practices
pay homage to our religious heritage, including national holidays such as
Christmas and Thanksgiving, military chaplains, the motto, and the Pledge of
Allegiance. See Lynch, 465 U.S. at 674-75, 104 S.Ct. 1355. Our currency
bears the motto "In God We Trust." "Because of their history and
ubiquity, those practices are not understood as conveying government approval of
particular religious beliefs," id. at 693, 104 S.Ct. 1355, but
instead as part of the richness of the very fabric of our Judeo-Christian
heritage which comprises an integral part of our Nation's history and
[n.2:] Indeed, if one extends plaintiffs' theory of the case to its logical extreme, not only must every public monument be shorn of religious reference, but many of the nation's most revered documents must be cleansed as well. If the Ten Commandments are deemed constitutionally offensive, how can one justify the rich religious traditions of our nation established in government practices including the opening of a Congressional session or the opening of this court with a prayer; similarly, how can one justify the religious references as found in innumerable public documents, including the Declaration of Independence (which declares God as the source of our rights) or the Constitutions to 46 out of the 50 states (which include references to "God," "Almighty God," and the "Supreme Ruler of the Universe," and with notable frequency refer to God as the author or source of human rights and liberties). A policy that tolerates religion does not improperly endorse it. See Chandler, 230 F.3d at 1317 (writing about the intersection of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause).
The proposed monument's reference to the Ten Commandments is much like other references (that have been deemed not to violate the Constitution) to God as set forth in the Christian history of our country--not an endorsement of religion, but merely an acknowledgment of the historical fact that the Ten Commandments served as an integral part of the foundation for our country's legal system. Because of the Ten Commandments' history and ubiquity, I believe that even if the monument would somehow fail the strictures of Lemon, Indiana's proposed monument as determined herein does not violate the Establishment Clause.
The majority's decision, similar to that in Books, 235 F.3d 292, leads us further away from the mainstream--and to a point where irreligion is favored over religion. The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state, but instead "it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, and forbids hostility toward any," Lynch, 465 U.S. at 673, 104 S.Ct. 1355, and the appropriate question to ask is whether an "objective" observer would believe that the display constitutes a government endorsement of religion, Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist., 120 S.Ct. at 2278. After all, "[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being." Zorach, 343 U.S. at 313, 72 S.Ct. 679.
In my view, the proposed three-subject monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights, and the Preamble to the Indiana Constitution, does not offend the Constitution. Instead, it serves as a well-deserved recognition of our country's legal, historical, and religious roots. Any possible endorsement of religion is diluted by the monument's placement on the Statehouse lawn with at least twelve other secular monuments memorializing and honoring the state's and nation's history.
Smith wrote My Country, 'Tis of Thee in 1831 and concluded his epic
with the following lines:
Our fathers' God, to thee, Author of liberty, To thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright, With freedom's holy light.
us by thy might, Great God, our King!
Does Samuel Smith's song no longer represent the very values upon which this country was founded, and indeed, where government officials are forbidden to sing of the liberty about which Smith cherished above all else, simply because it refers to religion?
I therefore respectfully DISSENT from the court's holding that Indiana's proposed monument violates the Establishment Clause or constitutes an establishment of religion, and thus would REVERSE the district court's grant of the preliminary injunction.
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