Defenders of church-state separation hoped that the court defeat of Judge Roy Moore's 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument would discourage others from following the same unconstitutional course. Now it seems that instead of just wanting to display the Commandments, some Religious Right activists are agitating for the entire Christian Bible.
In Harris County, Texas, a four-foot stone monument topped with a glass-encased King James Bible is the latest site of controversy. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ruled yesterday that the display outside courthouse must go.
Lake held that the Bible display unconstitutionally promotes a specific religion at a government facility. Lake's decision explained that the religious symbol fails two parts of the three-prong Lemon test. Named for a 1971 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Lemon test demands that to get past the First Amendment ban against an establishment of religion, such a display must have a secular purpose, must not advance nor inhibit religion and must not foster an excessive entanglement with religion.
"The Bible atop the Mosher monument does not have a secular purpose, and the primary or principal effect of the Bible display is to advance religion," Lake wrote. The monument would cause a reasonable viewer to "conclude that the Bible display conveys the message that Christianity is favored or preferred by Harris County," wrote Lake.
The lawsuit was brought by church-state separation advocate Kay Staley who called the decision "a great victory for religious freedom."
Reminiscent of the Roy Moore debacle, the case will be appealed to the U.S. 5th Circuit Appeals Court, and lawyers for the county are already threatening to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.