Congressman Wants Ten Commandments Posted in House and Senate Chambers

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

Capitol Hill ( - A U.S. congressman has introduced a resolution to order the posting of the Ten Commandments in the U.S. House and Senate chambers.

Rep. Brian Kerns (R-Ind.) says he introduced the "Ten Commandments Public Display Resolution of 2002" (H. Con. Res. 315) because Congress "should proudly display the Ten Commandments and recognize the contribution they have made to the United States."

He says the biblical instructions have a significance that goes far beyond religion.

"The Ten Commandments are fundamental to the development of the basic legal principles of Western civilization and our nation," Kerns said. "They set forth a code of conduct that promotes respect for our system of laws and the good of society."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) opposes the resolution.

"Should this be successful, it would raise serious legal questions and, in all likelihood, be unconstitutional," AU spokesman Steve Benen said, referring to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which forbids Congress from establishing religion or limiting the free expression of religion.

"The Supreme Court and federal courts have ruled that the Ten Commandments are, obviously a religious text, and the government cannot be in the business of promoting religious texts," Benen said.

AU has previously filed lawsuits against public officials for displaying the Ten Commandments on public property.

"For the same reason that it is unconstitutional in a school, or courthouse, or other public building," Benen added, "it is equally as problematic for Congress to do the same thing."

The group believes the proposal would potentially set a dangerous precedent, even though it has been submitted as a "Concurrent Resolution," rather than a bill, which would have the force of law if passed.

"I imagine that, in the event the House of Representatives votes to approve such a request that it would be taken seriously by the House Architect, and the Speaker, and other congressional leaders," Benen added. "I don't know what would happen as a result."

Kerns introduced the resolution Feb. 6 with no co-sponsors. Benen sees that as a good sign.

"I'm hopeful that a strong majority of lawmakers would reject such an effort," he said. "Hopefully this resolution will go nowhere."

Kerns is also a co-sponsor of the Public Statement of Religion Act (H.R.1273), which would allow courts to issue injunctions, but not award monetary damages or attorneys' fees, in lawsuits alleging violations of the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment.

The bill is necessary, he says, to eliminate the "chilling effect on constitutionally protected expressions of religion" resulting from the threat of lawsuits.

"I do not believe that our Founding Fathers meant to remove all religious references from the public square as many in the liberal establishment would have us believe," Kerns argued.

"Organizations like the ACLU are using the threat of costly lawsuits and activist courts to restrict religious statements. We must stand together and work to reverse this trend," he said.

Benen was not familiar with the bill and could not, therefore, comment on it. A request to the American Civil Liberties Union for an interview regarding the two pieces of legislation received no response.

E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.

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