Saturday, January 8, 2005

Listen America Jerry Falwell
Appeals court gets one right on Ten Commandments

Posted: January 8, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Rev. Jerry Falwell


Regular readers of this column know that there is an odious battle going on in our nation against the Ten Commandments and the public expression of religious faith in the public square.

What typically happens is that an "offended" local citizen seeks out the American Civil Liberties Union or some similar organization that preaches the religion of abject secularism, and a court case is filed against a Ten Commandments monument/plaque or some Christian symbol.

I believe this situation is one of the most critical problems we face in America today. Those who abhor public faith-based speech completely disregard our nation's long history of uninhibited religious expression.

As I have recounted in recent columns, this religious expression included congressional and presidential calls for National Days of Prayer, the 1803 congressional ratification, at President Thomas Jefferson's request, of a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians that sent an annual subsidy of $100 for the support of a priest and other funds for the erection of a Christian church, the Continental Congress' resolution in 1781 authorizing the printing of 20,000 King James Bibles and many other examples. (Our nation's pastors need to get serious about educating their congregations to these facts, by the way.)

The hostility toward religion we are seeing today is not what our founders intended for our nation. Those who disagree with this must either lie about our nation's history, or simply disregard these facts in their contemptuous crusade to secularize America.

Thankfully, there is good news to report from Chicago this week.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that the sale of land in La Crosse, Wis., (which contains a monument of the Ten Commandments) is constitutional.

The monument, donated to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, has been located in a city public park for many years. After a group known as the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit against the biblical tenets, city officials sold the land to the Eagles. The group erected a fence around the monument, which bears informative signs.

Still, even though the monument was privately owned, the Freedom from Religion Foundation persisted with their lawsuit.

In its analysis, the Seventh Circuit Court relied on an earlier, almost identical, case from Marshfield, Wis., stating: "The fence and signs noting the monument site is private property are sufficient for a reasonable passerby to differentiate it from public property."

The earlier case involved a statue of Jesus, donated to the city of Marshfield by the Knights of Columbus, which was placed in a city park.

In the La Crosse case, Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of the Liberty University-affiliated Liberty Counsel, represented the Henry Praschak Memorial Foundation that bought the land from the city.

He said the issue of public displays of the Ten Commandments has caused confusion and chaos in the courts, but will be resolved by the United States Supreme Court in McCreary County and Pulaski County v. ACLU of Kentucky.

He noted that the Seventh Circuit opinion recognized that the high court will indeed consider the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays. On March 2, Staver will argue the case on behalf of both counties who were sued for erecting displays of historical documents containing the Commandments.

Regarding the decision in La Crosse, Staver, a true hero of the modern religious freedom movement, stated, "This case shows what extreme positions groups like Freedom from Religion Foundation will take to erase all references to God from public sight. The court made a common-sense ruling in this case."

I, for one, am praying that common sense also holds sway at the Supreme Court regarding the critical Ten Commandments case. The annals of our nation's history are bursting with a host of examples showing that religion was a central focus of our founders. Please join me in praying that the high court will once and for all demonstrate to the radical secularists that public religious expression has a fundamental place in our society, just as it has through our history.


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