"The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state." - Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals

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.

Merry Christmas!


John R. said…
Keep on Keeping on...
Good post.

Susan said…
What to do?

send your kids to Patrick Henry College I suppose (I have one kiddo there). Many know the "oft-cited 'separation of church and state' argument is recognized as extra-constitutional and erroneous" But something must be done about it.

Layman said…

Good question.

The ACLJ seems to be getting some good results, even when going head-to-head with the ACLU. Supporting them or legal advocacy groupls like them will help.

But on a more basic level, we have to give local officials the resolve to fight these battles. It would have been easier for Mercer County to drop the Ten Commandments rather than oppose the ACLU in expensive litigation. So, the more our local officials hear from us, or read our letters in the paper, the more resolve they will have to oppose the ACLU's intimidation tactics.

And, though I risk sounding partisan, we should be careful about the judges the President appoints and the Senate approves. Two of the judges on the panel were appointed by President Bush I. I have not been able to track down the District Judge who was sitting as an appellate judge by designation (termporary assignment).

One thing I alluded to above is to get the word out of this opinion, and especially the phrase about there not being a "wall of separation." That has long been the ACLU and atheist's most powerful rhetorical contrivances. Now we have a comeback stamped with the seal of approval of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Write letters, repeat it on our own blogs, leave comments on the blogs of others discussing the issue, talk about it at work, etc.
Michael said…
Thanks for bringing this up, though it's "Magna Carta", not "Carter."
Layman said…

Thanks, I corrected the error.

And my apologies.

Michael said…
Thanks, Chris. :)

It's very difficult to fight the ACLU, and a big part of the problem is that when they sue somebody, they also sue for litigation costs. In other words, most lawsuits don't cost them anything.

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