Tags: Battle | Over | Ten | Commandments | Display | Capitol | Hill

Battle Over Ten Commandments Display On Capitol Hill

Sunday, 20 January 2002 12:00 AM

Schenck said the plaque would be erected on public ground that his ministry maintains. "The D.C. government controls our front lawn,” he conceded while vowing to establish a legal defense fund to push the issue into the courts.

Last May a divided U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an Indiana case testing whether public display of the Ten Commandments violates the principle of separation of church and state.

”We have just been informed that the highest legal official in the District of Columbia has ruled that there is no legal authority to grant a permit to display the Ten Commandments at our Ministry Center on Capitol Hill,” Schenck said Jan. 18.

"The devastating terrorist attacks have awakened Americans to the urgent need to protect our nation and preserve our values. Many are turning to faith in God for comfort and healing. But sadly, many government officials and groups like the ACLU are working to strip the Ten Commandments from our communities,” Schenck added.

Schenck describes the proposed site as across from the U.S. Supreme Court and in direct view of the ACLU’s national headquarters.

Schenck’s "The Ten Commandments Project” is an outreach of Faith and Action, his ministry to the Nation’s capital, which was founded in 1994.

In addition to the proposed display at the center, the Ten Commandments Project has been fighting a losing battle to have the U.S. Post Office create a stamp bearing the image of Moses holding the Commandments.

"Jews, Muslims, and Christians revere the Commandments,” said Schenck. "There should be no trouble with the commission approving this new stamp.”

But a special postal commission has denied a petition for a Ten Commandments stamp because it has a religious theme. Schenck, however, points to a stamp already in the U.S. Postal Service’s inventory that honors the Muslim holy feasts of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The process of appeal for a new postage stamp design requires hundreds of thousands of petitions from U.S. citizens. Schenck is working to get the required signatures.

From the petition: "An image of Moses holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments is permanently displayed in the relief sculpture in the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the face of Moses is the only portrait fully visible to the members of Congress as they stand in the well of the House chamber. Virtually all major religious groups respect the Commandments and both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate have passed resolutions pointing to the Ten Commandments as the foundation for a just and moral society.”

In 2000, a federal judge blocked the state of Kentucky from erecting a stone tablet bearing the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol. Also in that year the Indiana Civil Liberties Union sued to keep a Ten Commandments display from being set up on the Indiana Statehouse lawn.

More recently, the Supreme Court allowed a lower court ruling to stand that held that a display of the Ten Commandments is unconstitutional within the jurisdiction of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court decreed that posting the Ten Commandments in public schools was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s 1980 ruling found the postings violated the First Amendment ban on government establishment of religion.

In 1994 the court let stand lower court rulings holding that the commandments should be removed from courthouses, but local legislators in some states have fought that edict.

Legislators who want the commandments displayed get around the rulings by passing laws that expressly promote display in a historical -- rather than religious -- context. Example: posting the commandments next to secular historic documents such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Over the last couple of years, legislatures in 12 states took up measures to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public buildings. In Indiana and South Dakota, the bills have become law.

Last summer, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to allow states to display the commandments. In October, 41 House members signed a pledge to display them on their office walls.

Post 9-11, Rob Schenck and his brother Paul presided over the first prayer vigil in the Congress since the Civil War. They continue to offer Ten Commandments Tablets to members of the U.S Congress.

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Schenck said the plaque would be erected on public ground that his ministry maintains. The D.C. government controls our front lawn," he conceded while vowing to establish a legal defense fund to push the issue into the courts. Last May a divided U.S. Supreme Court...
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Sunday, 20 January 2002 12:00 AM
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