This bill comes from Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesboro, an Obama birther and Christian radio show host who once plastered an ultrasound picture of his fetus-baby in an election campaign flyer. His Senate sponsor is the homeschooling champion Mike Bell, R-Riceville.
Pith predicts this bill will fly through the legislature. But we asked our crack team of legal experts for a quick analysis of whether this law might run into any difficulties from liberal judges. And we are saddened to report that before all those God-fearing county commissioners out there can start erecting monuments, we must overcome just a few little problems—namely, the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution and a half-century of Supreme Court decisions. In a long line of cases beginning in 1946, the Supreme Court has barred state-endorsed public displays of religious symbols or acts. The question has been whether the government appears to be endorsing one religion over another or any religion over atheism. In the case of monuments to the Ten Commandments, the answer has been consistently yes.
Ten Commandment lovers can try to circumvent the Constitution by surrounding the Ten Commandments with other monuments. Monuments to the Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, Constitution of the great state of Tennessee, are mentioned as possibilities in Hill’s legislation. The idea, not a novel one in battles over monuments across the country, is to claim that the Ten Commandments has become so secularized that it’s devoid of religious meaning.
The problem with this tactic is that nutty people—even nuttier than Ten Commandments nuts—sometimes get ideas of their own In Caspar, Wyo., a Baptist preacher demanded a monument declaring that Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in 1998, went to hell because of his sexual orientation. In Ogden, Utah, a cult of UFO believers wanted their own monument and, in that case, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a city displaying a Ten Commandments monument must also display monuments espousing more unpopular beliefs.
Judges have sometimes prohibited “historical parks” if they see them as mere ruses to allow counties to continue their unconstitutional endorsement of religion.