The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has given this nation a Christmas present during this Holiday season. In a decision affirming a district court's ruling, the Sixth Circuit upheld Mercer County's right to display in a court house the Ten Commandments along with the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and the National Motto ("In God We Trust"). This is hardly earth-shaking stuff because the law clearly allows for such displays, especially when the Ten Commandments are displayed with other important cultural/legal influences on American history.
What was refreshing about the opinion was the Court's response to the American Civil Liberties Union's repeated incantions of the "wall of separation" in their legal briefs and oral argument. No paraphrase is necessary:
The ACLU makes repeated references to "the separation of church and state." This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state. Our nation's history is replete with acknowledgement and in some cases, accomodation of religion. Afterall, we are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being....
We will not presume endorsement from the mere display of the Ten Commandments. If the reasonable observer perceived all government references to the Deity as endorsements, then many of our Nation's cherished traditions would be unconstitutional, including the Declaration of Independence and the national motto. Fortunately, the reasonable person is not a hyper-sensitive plaintiff. Instead, he appreciates the role religion has played in our governmental institutions, and finds it historically appropriate and traditionally acceptable for a state to include religious influences, even in the form of sacred texts, in honoring American legal traditions.
American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky v. Mercer County, No. 03-5412 (6th Cir. December 20, 2005).
The ACLU has grown tiresome. The oft-cited "separation of church and state" argument is recognized as extra-constitutional and erroneous. Americans are a religious people. The U.S. government presupposes the existence of a "Supreme Being." The U.S. government acknowledges the important role religion has played in influencing our legal traditions.