Thou shalt not expect salvation from the Supreme Court when it comes to displaying the Ten Commandments on public property. By refusing to hear challenges to a lower court ruling prohibiting a Ten Commandment marker on city property in Elkhart, Ind., the high court let that ruling stand. Dare we say it: Thank God.
The boundary between church and state is not to be trifled with under the guise of secular significance. The Ten Commandments, explained Justice John Paul Stevens in defending the court's refusal to intervene in the Indiana case, clearly express a particular religious preference with the salutation, “I am the Lord thy God.”
Other faiths honor different deities and espouse different doctrine. Would every courthouse or city hall in the country that has planted a Ten Commandments monument be willing to give equal time to the tenets of say, the Church of Scientology, or the beliefs of Buddhism?
The Judeo-Christian heritage of hailing the Ten Commandments as a guidepost for virtuous living is indeed intricately woven into the fabric of American life. But it is a faith-based tradition not universally embraced. Therefore to publicly endorse the tablets as revered principle would be to hold one denomination above others.
And that would break a commandment that traverses the convictions of all citizens that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...” It is the only thing standing between Americans and the creation of a state religion. Its importance in a free nation cannot be understated.
For now the Ten Commandments monument stands in Elkhart just as many others do across the country, including Lucas County, where one sits on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn. The American Civil Liberties Union can't take on every case and public officials won't remove the monuments voluntarily.
But it may just be a matter of time before someone challenges the constitutionality of the decades-old marker to remain on public property. The Supreme Court says it belongs in a church of worship instead.