Aderholt's 'Ten Commandments Defense Act' Is Patently Unconstitutional

The so-called "Ten Commandments Defense Act" introduced today by U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) is so obviously unconstitutional that Congress should not waste time considering it, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"Rep. Aderholt apparently wants to turn courthouses and public schools into churches," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "That would violate the Constitution and common sense. Politicians should stop meddling in religious matters.

"This issue is already well settled as a matter of law," continued Lynn. "The courts have repeatedly declared that government may not get into the business of promoting the Ten Commandments or any other religious doctrines."

Lynn noted that the U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1980 Stone v. Graham decision, struck down a Kentucky law requiring public schools to post the Ten Commandments. In addition, in 1994 the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Harvey and Cunningham v. Cobb County ordered Cobb County, Ga., officials to remove a Ten Commandments display from the courthouse. (The 11th Circuit includes Alabama, Aderholt's home state.)

Lynn noted that Aderholt's proposal is doubly nefarious because it attempts to curb the power of the federal courts.

"This proposed legislation violates not only the separation of church and state but the separation of powers as well," said Lynn. "Simply put, Congress has no authority to dictate to federal courts how they are to decide cases. The judiciary is an independent and equal branch; it is not some sort of congressional lapdog."

Concluded Lynn, "In short, this legislation is so outrageous Congress shouldn't even waste time on it. There are many more important issues out there that require attention."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.