Supreme Court: Ten Commandments Monuments and Crosses are Constitutional


The Supreme Court’s ruling on public invocations in the name of Jesus is a ruling of seismic proportions. It begins the process of ratcheting back the strangulation of religious liberty in America that began with the Court’s egregious ruling in Everson in 1947, which led to the removal of Bible reading and prayer from our public schools by the early 1960s.

We’ve now reached the point where students have their Bibles confiscated during personal reading time and others cannot even hand out candy canes to classmates at Christmas.

But the Court’s ruling on prayer represents a sea change in constitutional jurisprudence.

And in the process, the Court, unwittingly or not, declared that every cross and every Ten Commandments monument on public property is perfectly constitutional.

The monumental change in the Court’s thinking has to do with how violations of the Establishment Clause are determined. The prior standard was “endorsement.” If some government body could be accused of “endorsing” religion – which meant nothing more than saying nice things about God – then the Stormtroopers swooped in and gagged and handcuffed the miscreants.

But the Court in Greece v. Galloway changed the standard from “endorsement” to “coercion.” A violation of the First Amendment can now only be claimed if coercion can be demonstrated.

Because no one is forced against his will to participate in an invocation before a legislative assembly – attendees don’t have to stand, bow their heads, fold their hands, close their eyes, or even stay in the room – then it is not possible for a constitutional violation to occur.

The Court wrote that a “fact-sensitive inquiry” concluded that “the town is not coercing its citizens to engage in a religious observance.” The Court tacked this down by adding, “[L]awmakers did not direct the public to participate, single out dissidents for opprobrium, or indicate their decisions might be influenced by a person’s acquiescence in the prayer opportunity.” In other words, no coercion, no First Amendment violation.

The Court swept away with a backhanded swat the ridiculous argument that merely being offended is sufficient to create a breach of the Constitution. Just because someone’s feelings have been hurt does not mean there is some cataclysmic break in the space-time constitutional continuum. In a burst of brilliant, luminescent and concise reasoning, the Court flatly declared what we all know to be true: “offense…does not equate to coercion.” Feast your eyes on that. “Offense… does not equate to coercion.”

Said the Court, “Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views…”

Nailing this jurisprudential principle to the wall, the Court went on to say, “[L]egislative bodies do not engage in impermissible coercion merely by exposing constituents to prayer they would rather not hear and in which they need not participate.”

Virtually every misguided and misbegotten legal challenge to religious liberty has been rooted and grounded in this entirely subjective and sniveling complaint that someone has been personally offended by someone else’s religious expression. That ground of complaint is now gone, buried where it belongs, in the graveyard of foolish, juvenile and un-American notions.

What few people have recognized is that the Court also just declared the constitutionality of every cross and Ten Commandments monument in America.

Whatever else Ten Commandments monuments represent, they are clearly examples of religious speech. In fact, Christians believe that every one of the words in the Decalogue is a word from God himself.

But the Court clearly ruled in Greece that the mere fact that what is being dealt with is an expression of religious speech is not sufficient as a basis for a constitutional challenge.

And more to the point, there is no coercion of any kind involved in either Ten Commandments monuments or crosses, or with regard to the Jesus statue on a ski hill outside Whitefish, Montana.

With regard to Ten Commandments monuments, for instance, no one is compelled to notice them, observe them, read them, believe them, agree with them or obey them. No coercion, no violation. It’s a beautiful thing.

With regard to memorial crosses, no one is compelled to look at them, study them, ponder them, like them, or agree with the message they represent. No coercion, no violation.

With regard to the Jesus statue in Montana, no one is required to stop and look at it, appreciate it, meditate before it, or worship or even admire the person it represents. Everyone is perfectly free to ignore it and ski right on by it as if it does not exist. No coercion, no violation.

Now of course all of this depends on a Supreme Court that shows some kind of consistency in the logical application of its own ideas. Anthony Kennedy in particular can be a squirrelly-bird when it comes to rational thought, wandering off into emanations and penumbras and absurd, 60s-ish ruminations about defining the concepts of one’s own existence.

But if the Court shows any constancy at all when the next monument or cross case appears before it, these expressions of religious speech will be safe and secure. And America will be better for it.

No coercion, no violation. Let freedom ring.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

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  • VictorLandry

    Let’s hope common sense prevails in the future cases.

  • Dannyboy

    The ultimate goal of the Left is to marginalize or destroy religion, just as Communists did.

    • Freedom’sBell

      And the Left and Communists are different how? The only change is the Left has figured out how to regulation the way they used to use ownership.

  • The Skeptical Chymist

    It is a testament to Orwell to read that Mr. Fischer thinks that the Supreme Court decision that halted the reading of government-sponsored prayers in schools was a step in “the strangulation of religious liberty.” I would have thought that he would be dead set against government control of religious expression in the schools.

    Oh, I forgot. As long as it is his religion that is being promoted, he is all in favor of the government doing so. It’s the “religious freedom for me but not for thee approach.”

    • WoodyBoyd

      I always find it amusing how some people want a common standard for the entire nation based on their interpretation of the First Amendment. The founders wrote that amendment to preclude the FEDERAL government from overstepping its bounds into STATE territory, which Religion was back when the amendment was written.

      The First Amendment was clearly and strictly written to forbid the FEDERAL government from writing any law or issuing any ruling or decree that interfered with religion as it was practiced within each State. Somehow this has been construed by folks like you that all religion must be removed from every single place it is found in public.

      At the time when the First Amendment was written almost every State had a STATE sponsored and supported religion, albeit they were all Christian. Prayer was held at almost EVERY public event and if you did not like it then you chose not to participate.

      So the Federal government swooping in to save you from the possible horrific consequences of observing and witnessing others praying in school was actually a forbidden act by the First Amendment since it infringed on the State’s authority and the act in itself is the establishment of religion in that it establishes Atheism as the religion that the Federal government is forcing on the people.

      Perhaps you should stop forcing the religious view you hold on others simply because what they hold for a religious view offends you !!

      • The Skeptical Chymist

        Most constitutional scholars consider that the Bill of Rights was made binding on the states when the 14th amendment was adopted.

        Apart from that historical issue, if it is objectionable for the FEDERAL government to establish a religion, why is it not equally objectionable for the STATE or LOCAL governments to establish an official religion? Shouldn’t the individual be permitted to follow the dictates of his own conscience as far as religion is concerned?

        No student is prohibiting anyone from praying in school. What is forbidden is governmental actors (teachers or principals, etc.) establishing governmentally sanctioned prayers in school. As long as there are tests, students will pray in school, albeit they will generally pray silently.

        Finally, suggesting that the removal of official, government-sanctioned prayers from schools, is establishing the religion of atheism is ridiculous! Not broadcasting a prayer over the PA system is not an endorsement of atheism. Since when is the absence of an action an endorsement of its opposite?

        I bet you’ve never written any comments against the concept of people having sex with dead animals. Does your lack of commentary on that subject mean that you endorse the practice? I should think not. Similarly, if the school does not broadcast prayers over the PA system, it does not mean that they endorse the opposite of religion, i.e. atheism.

  • mattogilvie55

    Well, well, well! Score one for the human beings.

  • http://expatriato.blogspot.com/ Muscato

    I look forward to a plethora of monuments celebrating Allah, Shiva, the Buddha, and possibly even the Flying Spaghetti Monster cluttering up courthouse lawns and municipal buildings across the country.

    • thisoldspouse

      Well, that would be a CHANGE from what we’ve known as ESTABLISHED custom since our founding, wouldn’t it?

      • http://expatriato.blogspot.com/ Muscato

        Not really…

        “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims]…” – from the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by John Adams in 1797.

        As for the idea of a great honking monument on the courthouse lawn, well, Christian denominations vary rather widely on the idea of graven images (about which, of course, the Bible has rather a lot to say). In my own childhood church, the very idea of a vast carved ten commandments on a courthouse lawn would have seemed vulgar at best, idolatrous at worst.

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  • magic1114

    Let the left wing whining begin! And by the way; would you like some cheese with your whine?

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