Written by Don Byrd
An amendment to the state constitution will be on the ballot in Alabama this November that would authorize public schools to display the Ten Commandments. Will that settle the issue and bar litigation challenging the move? Not by a long shot.
Displays would still have to pass scrutiny under the U.S. Constitution, a tall order in the context of public schools. Federal courts have consistently ruled that school children deserve a special level of protection against the threat of religious coercion by government. And it seems clear that the purpose of the measure has little to do with educational goals.
As quoted in AL.com, the Chairman of the Ten Commandments PAC, Dean Young, seemed to acknowledge that this is about pushing Christianity onto children while also promoting a flawed and misguided view of America’s founding:
“[T]o have a long-lasting change, we need to bring the Ten Commandments into the schools, have the acknowledgement of God and make sure the students are accountable and know that there are absolutes.”
He added, “We got to get back to what made this nation great and that would be, No. 1, getting back to what the founders believed and that was this country was founded in a belief in God and that is the Christian God.”
As I asked earlier this year about Alabama’s amendment referendum, what’s the point? The state constitution is already not the most significant hurdle facing a government-sponsored religious display on school grounds. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is.
This measure stands only to confuse the issue for school officials, parents, and advocates. This initiative is a recipe neither for ending nor for winning church-state litigation over religious displays in public schools. A display that is currently unconstitutional under the federal constitution will be just as unlawful after this passes, and certainly no more immune to challenge.