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An Alabama congressman is preparing to unveil federal legislation that would allow government posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings and bar federal courts from hearing cases challenging the religious displays.

Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.) says he will reintroduce the legislation, which he has labeled the "Ten Commandments Defense Act," shortly after Labor Day.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State said Aderholt's legislation represents an assault on constitutional principles.

"I've got a commandment for Bob Aderholt: Thou shalt not play politics with religion," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The Ten Commandments have done pretty well for themselves for centuries; they don't need help from members of Congress. Perhaps if politicians started following the Commandments, and stopped using them for crass political purposes, we'd be better off.

"Aderholt's bill is reckless and radical in its approach to the law," added Lynn. "It flies in the face of legal precedent and constitutional principles. The only thing the 'Ten Commandments Defense Act' actually defends is the Religious Right's goal of forcing its views on the rest of us."

Introduction of Aderholt's bill will follow closely on the heels of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's unveiling of a 5,000-pound Ten Commandments monument earlier this month at the state judicial building in Montgomery.

While official support for the Decalogue continues to be a hot-button issue, the "court stripping" provisions of Aderholt's bill -- which would prohibit federal courts from even hearing a challenge to a Commandments display -- may be even more controversial.

During a July 27 interview with TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, Aderholt said the 10th Amendment gives the states powers not reserved to the federal government, and thus, if the jurisdiction of the federal courts were removed, states and communities would be free to erect the Ten Commandments.

"It's our argument that the Ten Commandments do not establish any religion," said Aderholt, who regularly receives 100 percent ratings from the Christian Coalition on its legislative scorecards.

Aderholt went on to advance the rather unusual legal theory that the Supreme Court should not always be the final arbiter of the Constitution. He asserted, "[W]e would make the argument, the Supreme Court does not always have the final authority over the interpretation of the Constitution."

This will be Aderholt's second attempt to pass this proposal. He introduced it in 1998, but it failed to become law.

Previous "court stripping" efforts have not fared well in Congress. Throughout the 1980s, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) tried repeatedly to remove the ability of the federal courts to hear school prayer cases. None were enacted into law. It is also unclear if the Supreme Court would allow Congress to ignore the separation of powers between branches of government and limit federal court authority in this way.

Nationally, government-endorsed Ten Commandments displays continue to spark political controversy. In July, the North Carolina legislature became the latest state to pass a law allowing officially sponsored display of the Commandments in public schools. (The measure was introduced and championed by State Rep. Don Davis, who ignited conflict this week by distributing an e-mail to fellow lawmakers claiming, "Two things made this country great: White men & Christianity.")

Concluded AU's Lynn, "The Aderholt scheme is indefensible. It should be quickly rejected by anyone who takes the Constitution seriously."

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.

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.