Sep 03, 2003

An Alabama congressman's bill allowing for government displays of the Ten Commandments is an affront to the First Amendment and unworthy of any consideration by Congress, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), along with a few of his House colleagues, today scheduled a press briefing on Capitol Hill to trumpet the "The Ten Commandments Defense Act." Aderholt called the measure a vital piece of legislation that must be passed promptly, especially in light of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's inability to keep a large Ten Commandments monument on public display in the Alabama Judicial Building

According to Aderholt and his supporters, including Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the nation's laws are based in large part on the Ten Commandments and government officials may display the Decalogue wherever they please.

Americans United, which was one of the three civil liberties groups that challenged Moore's monument in federal court, said Aderholt's bill would essentially gut the First Amendment, which provides for separation of church and state.

"Aderholt wants government to promote religion," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "He's on the wrong track. Religion does not need government help to remain healthy and prosper, and the First Amendment prohibits government promotion of religion."

Aderholt's bill, H.R. 2045, also includes language that orders federal court to leave decisions about display of the Ten Commandments to the states. The bill was introduced in May, has 70 cosponsors and is pending in the House's Subcommittee on the Constitution.

"Aderholt's actions show contempt for the American constitutional principles," said AU's Lynn. "The Constitution's separation of powers requires that Congress refrain from instructing the courts on how to rule on cases involving constitutional rights."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.