Members of Congress are promoting bills that would strip the federal courts of their ability to hear cases challenging the display of the Ten Commandments on government property.
Angered over a recent federal court ruling that required the removal of a Commandments monument in the Judicial Building in Montgomery, Ala., U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt called a press conference Sept. 4 to demand passage of his "Ten Commandments Defense Act."
The measure, H.R. 2045, includes language that orders federal courts to leave decisions about display of the Commandments to the states. The bill, which was introduced in May, has 70 cosponsors and is pending in the House's Subcommittee on the Constitution.
Aderholt called the measure a vital piece of legislation that must be passed promptly, especially in light of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's inability to keep a large Commandments monument on public display in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building
According to Aderholt and his supporters, including Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the nation's laws are based in large part on the Ten Commandments and government officials may display the Decalogue wherever they please.
The Family Research Council (FRC), a Washington-based Religious Right group, reported that Aderholdt's measure was drafted by Robert George, a Princeton University political science professor. George sits on FRC's board of directors.
A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), the "Religious Liberties Restoration Act" (S.1558), would also bar courts from hearing cases challenging recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and the use of "In God We Trust" as the national motto.
Americans United, which was one of three civil liberties groups that challenged Moore's monument in federal court, said the Aderholt and Allard bills would essentially gut the First Amendment, which provides for separation of church and state.
"Aderholt and Allard want government to promote religion," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "They are on the wrong track. Religion does not need government help to remain healthy and prosper, and the First Amendment prohibits government promotion of religion.
"Aderholt and Allard's actions show contempt for American constitutional principles," said AU's Lynn. "The Constitution's separation of powers requires that Congress refrain from instructing the courts on how to rule on cases involving constitutional rights."