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A Non-Miracle On 34th Street?
by Daniel Sargis
16 July 2003
yet another example of judicial sophistry, the Eleventh Circuit recently
stated that religion includes "the lack of any faith" and prohibited the
display of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama State Judicial Building.
of the great advantages that lawyers have over the average citizen is their
deftness at doubletalk. And since judges are the monarchs of the judicial
kingdom you can decide who are the realm’s best double-talkers.
In a July 1, 2003 Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision prohibiting
a Ten Commandments display in the Alabama State Judicial Building (Glassroth v. Moore),
the esteemed apostles of the court reaffirmed that, “The Supreme Court has
instructed us that for First Amendment purposes religion includes non-Christian
faiths and those that do not profess belief in the Judeo-Christian God; indeed,
it includes the lack of any faith.” What is the court saying by including
“the lack of any faith” as a religion?
The dividing line between religion and philosophy has always been a very
gray area. One person’s philosophy is another’s religion. In
the same Appellate decision, the court notes that the supreme being of the
Alabama State Judicial Building, Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, while responsible
for the placement of the Ten Commandments in the building, "denied an atheist
group’s request to display a symbol of atheism in the rotunda.” That
symbol, as evidenced by the decision of the federal District Court decision
that prompted the appeal was, "a sculpture of an atheist symbol—an atom….”
Since the Supreme Court, as above noted, finds a religion to include “the
lack of any faith” wouldn’t that make atheism a religion? And, if so,
would that not make the sculpture of an atom, an avowed “atheist symbol,”
equivalent to a crucifix? Or is the issue really decided on the fervency
of one’s belief -- do you just believe in this or do you worship it?
The former espousing a philosophy and the latter proselytizing a religion.
For argument’s sake let’s create a lay definition of religion as a philosophy
with a belief in a supreme being or a God not of this world, and let’s exclude
both Elvis and little creatures from the Hale-Bopp Comet. Even with
this simplified definition, religion is still not one-dimensional.
Is it a “Revealed” religion like Christianity or an “Unrevealed” religion
like Deism? And, if it’s a “Revealed” religion, how reliable is the
How can anybody be certain of an ante-video occurrence of over 2000 years
ago when the C.I.A. can’t even accurately analyze the validity of a recent
Saddam Hussein home movie? In the absence of convincing documentation
to support a “Divine Revelation” is the Supreme Court willing to nullify
the legitimacy of the “Revealed” God and most of the world’s organized religions?
Wouldn’t that be A Non-Miracle On 34th Street.
What the courts have done in deciding Glassroth v. Moore and another Ten Commandments’ case with an opposite outcome, Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia v. Chester County,
is modern day judicial sophistry. Devoid of the guts it takes to define
the Ten Commandments as either religious or moralistic, the courts have consistently
invoked the waffling Lemon Test, which would be better defined as the Lieutenant
Tom Keefer Test.
Determining the Constitutionality of artistic expression (a sculpture of
the Ten Commandments) on the three subjective prongs of the Lemon Test—purpose,
effect and fostering—is a less than courageous approach to the vital question…is
America a moral nation under God.
To find in one instance that the placement of the Commandments on public
property violates separation of church and state because of the artwork’s
size, shape and design or motive of the curator, and does not violate the
Constitution in another location with a different physical presence or motive,
is a subjective usurpation of Free Speech by the courts. If an Atom
sculpture is displayed in the Smithsonian, should its aesthetics or motive
be subject to the individual interpretation of a judge?
This is a straightforward issue that the “please all—please none” cowardice
of the courts has befuddled. The Declaration of Independence cites
homage to God in four passages of the document. Without dissent, the courts
have accepted the fact that there is a God…at least the United States Treasury
seems to believe so. And, without dissent, the courts have always accepted
the fact that the Ten Commandments served as the moral basis for American
In the pre-Renaissance days, the hierarchy of existence was God, State (King)
and Individual. By the Enlightenment, that order had been changed to
God, Individual and State. In an ex post facto manner, the courts
seem to be attempting the solidification of a State—Individual—God hierarchy.
God, or any concept of a moral being greater than the law of the State, seems
to be a governmental conundrum. How can the State reign supreme over
its people with the pesky concept of morality superceding State authority?
Easy…just label morals as religion and negate their intervention in the governmental
hierarchy…but do pay some convoluted lip service to the “moral concept” for
the sake of the rabble.
The question sure to be raised to the Supreme Court as a result of these
lower court decisions is the context of the Ten Commandments in American
society. If the court has any guts, it will “Reveal” a clear and easily
understood decision...either the Commandments are guiding moral principles
in any venue or they are religious sacraments unfit for display on public
property. If they decide the latter most basic American laws will have
to be rescinded since it is upon the tablets of Moses that they are based.
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