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The Real Issue in Alabama's Courthouse
by Dennis Campbell
21 September 2003Ten Commandments Monument

Are we a constitutional republic, or are we a nation governed by a central government that considers the states to be of little, if any, consequence?

What is troubling about the uproar involving the display of the Ten Commandments in an Alabama courthouse is neither that the monument was removed nor that it was displayed in the first place. It is that the situation has been distorted and twisted by those who are ignorant of the constitutional issues involved, or motivated to further distance America from the constitutional republic it was founded to be, or have a simple hostility to public displays of religion, especially those Christian.

Alabama Judge Roy Moore in particular has been portrayed as a renegade jurist and out-of-control Evangelical bent on forcing his religious views on the unwilling. The affair in general is said to concern the mythical separation of church and state and a concern about government establishment of religion.

In fact, it is none of these things. It is a matter of upholding our Constitution and the form of government established by that great document. Are we to be a constitutional republic, or are we to be a nation governed by a central government that considers the states to be of little, if any, consequence?

Recent history seems to portend that we are headed toward the gloomy end of the latter as the federal government systematically usurps powers that unquestionably are the province of the state -- the legalization of abortion, the Texas sodomy law, and the issue in question here being just three examples. It can do so, of course, only with the willing complicity of the people.

So, what are we to make of the government's order to remove the contended display? The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…." And the Tenth Amendment states that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.

The issue, then, is this: Does the federal government, through the actions of a federal judge, have the authority to restrict the exercise of religion by the people of the state of Alabama? Clearly, the answer is no. Judge Moore was correct in his refusal to obey an unlawful order by a judge exercising authority he does not possess.

In fact, this federal judge was engaging in that against which Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, cautioned when he wrote, "To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition."

Regarding Alabama, one might ask, "What if a copy of the Koran or a statue of Mohammed were displayed? Would that be acceptable?" The answer is yes, if that were the will of the people of Alabama. If it were not, they have the same right as the citizens of Texas who may have opposed its sodomy law: A remedy of their complaint through legitimate legislative processes.

That the vast body of governmental power be vested in the states inarguably was the intent of the Founding Fathers. Alexander Hamilton wrote: "The State governments possess inherent advantages, which will ever give them an influence and ascendancy over the National Government, and will for ever preclude the possibility of federal encroachments. That their liberties, indeed, can be subverted by the federal head, is repugnant to every rule of political calculation."

How clearly did those great men think! If we had more such thinkers in public service today how much better would be the state of America.

History and practical experience tell us that the more centralized a government, the greater its inefficiencies and the greater the threat of tyranny. The socialism of Nazi Germany, the communism of Soviet Union, the tyrannical centralized government of China and the ruinous brutality of communist Cuba have deprived their citizens of their substance, their freedom of expression and religion and, in literally millions of cases, their very lives.

Is this the path we truly desire to walk? That is not to say that we necessarily must suffer the fate of Germany or Russia or China, but that we must see a continued, unrelenting erosion of our rights, rights granted not by government but by God. Were they granted by government, they would be mere privileges, subject to revocation upon any whim.

Think carefully about this issue. It is one upon which the fate of America turns.

Dennis Campbell is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to Internet and print publications

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