Sometimes it's hard to find a ray of light in the American judicial system, but once in a while the sun comes shining through. In a shocking display of clarity and common sense, a federal appeals court judge ruled last month that the Ten Commandments may remain on a wall in a Mercer County, Kentucky courthouse.
The case concerned a display entitled, "Foundations of American Law and Government," which, in addition to the Commandments, also includes; the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, the Magna Carta, the Star-Spangled Banner, Lady Justice, and the National Motto "In God We Trust."
Last year the U.S. Supreme Court muddied the constitutional waters when it issued a split decision on two cases concerning the Ten Commandments; ruling that they may remain on a monument in Texas while prohibiting their display in two McCreary County, Kentucky courthouses.
As we have come to expect from a man who thinks international law should pertain to our justice system, Justice Stephen Breyer explained the confusing decisions: "This [Texas] display has stood apparently uncontested for nearly two generations. That experience helps us understand that as a practical matter of degree this display is unlikely to prove divisive."
But referring to the Kentucky displays, he said: "In a Nation of so many different religious and comparable nonreligious fundamental beliefs, a more contemporary state effort to focus attention upon a religious text is certainly likely to prove divisive in a way that this longstanding, pre-existing monument has not."
In other words, Justice Breyer believes that, rather than ruling on the constitutionality of the displays, the quality of their divisiveness should be a main determinative factor -- just another instance of the living, breathing document formerly known as the law of the land suffering indignities at the hands of a liberal mediocrity.
However, on the heels of this legal inanity comes some of the best opinion-writing this side of Antonin Scalia. In the ACLU v. Mercer County (KY), 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Suhrheinrich, a Reagan appointee, gave the ACLU lawyers a lesson in history and a well-deserved slap-down:
The ACLU erroneously -- though perhaps intentionally -- equates recognition with endorsement. To endorse is necessarily to recognize, but the converse does not follow....If the reasonable observer perceived all government references to the Deity as endorsements, then many of our Nation's cherished traditions would be unconstitutional, including the Declaration of Independence and the national motto. Fortunately, the reasonable person is not a hyper-sensitive plaintiff.
He went further: "A reasonable observer would not view this display as an attempt by Mercer County to establish religion. Instead, he would view it for what it is: an acknowledgment of history." He then delivered the coup de grace, an opinion conservatives have been shouting from the rooftops for years:
The ACLU makes repeated reference to "the separation of church and state." This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.
He also did not ignore Breyer and company. Summing up the murky precedents on public religious displays emanating from Washington, he wrote deliciously: "Thus, we remain in Establishment Clause purgatory."
He could have added that the ACLU and others continue to cite the "wall between church and state" passage of a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury (CT) Baptists as rock-solid proof for their claims, yet refuse to give the same weight to his deity-filled Declaration of Independence, which was actually ratified by the Congress.
As a result of the ACLU's latest loss, officials in Hardin County, Kentucky, and elsewhere are considering putting the Ten Commandments on display. This illustrates why secularists desperately need to rewrite history as courts are now beginning to affirm that Ten Commandments displays do not endorse religion when used in historic context.
Liberals and their politically-correct acolytes in the education field have done yeoman's work in that regard, as American history classes have become more and more insignificant. Their only stumbling blocks may be more sound legal minds like Richard Suhrheinrich and the soon-to-be confirmed Samuel Alito, as well as history itself.
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