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
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
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.