It's odd that the ACLU and ACLJ have acronyms with such similar initials,
considering they are opposites.
The ACLU is the American Civil Liberties Union, and they aim to preserve the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights - to protect your rights.
The ACLJ is the American Center for Law and Justice, and they want to
protect your rights too. But they define rights as the rights of those who
want religious liberty and the rights of the unborn. They claim to protect
the Constitution as well.
Both groups may come to the City of Frederick regarding the Ten Commandments
in Memorial Grounds Park. The ACLU threatens to bring suit if the Ten
Commandments aren't removed from city property, and the ACLJ says they'll
help pay to fight the ACLU and maybe, if the Ten Commandments are removed,
file a lawsuit to have them put back.
The issue of separation of church and state and the placement of religious
icons, such as the Ten Commandments on public property, has been tested in
the courts before. In most cases, the Ten Commandments has had to go.
The Constitution, by the way, says nothing about separation of church and
state. The courts have interpreted the First Amendment, which states that
Congress cannot pass laws promoting or restricting religion, as meaning
church and state are to be kept separate.
Is it important to somehow sidestep this issue in Frederick or to embrace
the fundamentals that are the underpinnings of our laws and legal
principles? Sadly, few seem to understand why we adopted these laws and
principles in the first place.
Frederick may try to find a compromise. Individuals and groups have offered
to buy the chunk of land under the Ten Commandments. The city could consider
giving the ground under the monument to the Nature Conservancy or a similar
group. They could stipulate the memorials in the park remain where they are
and offer to have the city maintain the ground around the monuments forever.
The city also could argue the Ten Commandments are a quote from a literary
source. The Bible as literature is taught in some college courses.
What is probable is that the city will be dragged, if it chose such tactics,
into an annoying, expensive lawsuit. This issue should be resolved by
finding some middle ground, but that's unlikely. Frederick will be hurt by
the publicity if this issue becomes a battleground between the ACLU and the
ACLJ. Likely, help from the ACLJ will be rejected to avoid becoming beholden
to and creating a media event for their position.
Although the intent of the ACLU is one of high integrity, a lawsuit against
the city will only ensure more ammunition for the fight between private and
public morality. Fights over the Ten Commandments on public property has
been another excuse for well-heeled, anti-government groups whose members
get all the protections provided by the Constitution to claim they're
oppressed. How ironic.
A number of local church leaders have taken a stand for keeping the Ten
Commandments in the park. The obvious question to ask is whether this group
has forgotten stands the generation of ministers before them took on other
rights issues. Both the Constitution and The Bible were their guides to what
was right then, each used appropriately. State Senators Alex Mooney and Tim
Ferguson managed to jump on the wagon this group of ministers is pulling;
both senators need the publicity as they face tough reelection campaigns.
The history behind the founding fathers demand for distance between religion
and government is now a vague concept. Until we again experience real
oppression from the government, not this constant whining about paying taxes
but search and seizures without any protection or life where the church,
government, law, and wealth are the same, we will not again understand why
the Constitution is the right legal guide.
It's important to search for a resolution that doesn't drive the wedge any
further between the private and public morality factions, but it won't
happen. Curiously, by facing challenges, the Constitution becomes a more
powerful document, and the ACLJ should realize this. Another question that
should asked is whether the ACLJ, despite their claims, believes the
Constitution stands in the way of their agenda and would prefer that it be
Do we leave the interpretation of the Constitution and laws to the skill and
steady hand of the courts or do we make it subject to popular whim and have
the Constitution obliterated by children with erasers? The Bible is not our
guide to the law. The Bible should be your guide to private morality, but
the Constitution is our Bible to public morality.