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by Rob Boston

How A Publicity Stunt By Hollywood Producer Cecil B. DeMille Wound

Up At The Supreme Court --And What Happened When It Did

According to the Book of Exodus, God handed down the Ten

Commandments to Moses in a most dramatic fashion.

In the biblical account, lightning flashed in the sky and thunder

boomed around Mt. Sinai. The entire mountain shook, and a horn
blared out. The people trembled as Moses approached and ascended
the cloud-covered summit. He emerged, after a personal encounter
with God, carrying two stone tablets on which were engraved the Ten

In light of this story, the religious nature of the Decalogue would seem
to be beyond question. The list of commands itself bears this out: At
least four of the decrees deai with specific matters of faith,
admonishing believers to spurn false gods, reject graven images, avoid
blasphemous speech and keep the Sabbath holy.

But to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Ten Commandments

don't necessarily have to be religious. According to Rehnquist, they are
also a document that has played a "foundational role ... in secular,
legal matters" that can be featured in a city's "celebration of its
culturai and historical roots" without becoming "a promotion of
religious faith."

Rehnquist's comments were made public May 29, when the Supreme
Court issued an order stating that it wouid not hear an appeal of a "
lower court ruling striking down the government's display of a granite
Ten Commandments monument in Elkhart, Ind. Rehnquist dissented
from that action, and joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin
Scalia, made it clear that he believes the court should have overturned
the ruling, clearing the way for government at all levels to display the
Ten Commandments.

Justice John Paul Stevens, an advocate for church-state separation,

found the trio's reasoning convoluted. He noted that the monument in
Elkhart contains two lines in large type that read, "THE TEN
COMMANDMENTS -- I AM the LORD thy GOD." Observed Stevens, "The
graphic emphasis placed on those first lines is rather hard to square
with the proposition that the monument expresses no particular production. Eagles units soon began donating them to cities around
religious preference." After all, he continued, "the monument also the country.
depicts two Stars of David and a symbol composed of the Greek letters
Chi and Rho superimposed on each other that represent Christ." DeMille carefully exploited the situation to ensure maximum publicity
for his movie, and some of the monument dedications were even
A few years ago, a handful of Religious Right organizations announced timed to tie in with the release of the film. In one town, Dunseith,
campaigns to get the Ten Commandments posted in government N.D., actor Heston appeared personally for the ceremony. In
buildings and public schools all over the United States. The Supreme Milwaukee, a Ten Commandments monument was unveiled the same
Court's decision not to hear the City of Elkhart v. Books case should week the film debuted, with actor Yul Brynner n Pharaoh in the movie
help bring those efforts to a halt. -- on hand for the festivities.

But it won't happen without a fight. Religious Right organizations were Ruegemer, 98 and still living in Minnesota, told the South Bend
infuriated when the high court took a pass on the Indiana case and Tribune in May that the Eagles were at first wary of taking on the
have vowed to find other ways to bring the matter before the justices. project, fearing that it might be perceived as sectarian. To get around
And they may have the chance -- at least 12 cases dealing with Ten that, organizational ieaders asked Catholic, Protestant and Jewish
Commandments displays are pending in seven states. (See representatives to come together and decide on how to word and list
"Commandments Controversies," page 13.) Meanwhile, in Elkhart, 6ft the commandments in a way that was agreeable to all. (Roman
officials are toying with open defiance. Catholics, Protestants and Jews use different versions of the Ten
4- ~ ., Commandments. For example, in the Catholic version, the fourth
Ironically, the pwnument that has sparked so much fuss was until a commandment is "Honor your mother and father." In the Protestant
few. years ago covered with weeds and vines. Many town residents and Jewish versions, it is "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. ")
• , didn't even know it was there until a groundskeeper cleaned it off one
day in 1998. Thanks to the DeMille-Eagles partnership, more than 2,000 Ten
Commandments monuments were donated to communities around the
The monument had found a home in front of the Elkhart City Hall four country. The FOE kept the project going long after the film opened,
decades earlier as a ti~or a P£lll11otional campaign for a movie -- and some monuments did not get erected until 10 years later.
Hollywood producer Cecil B. DeMille's biblical extravaganza "The Ten Elkhart's monument was dedicated on Memorial Day of 1958, when
•..... '- -_.~ local Protestant, Jewish and Catholic clergy in Elkhart, joined by FOE
officers and city officials, unveiled it at a public ceremony.
DeMille's involve men of a nalliJnwide campaign first
launched in 1943 b EJ. Rue eme a Minnesota juvenile court judge Four decades passed. In 1998, when the monument was rediscovered,
an ead of a Fraternal' !":""o a~s (FOE) committee dealing with it immediately became a focus of controversy and the target of a
the problems of youth. Ruegemer claimed that many of the young lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. A federal district court
people who ended up in his courtroom lacked a moral foundation, and ruled against the ACLU, but the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals took
he proposed posting paper copies of the Ten Commandments in the opposite tack.
juvenile courts to rectify that.
In its Dec. 13, 2000, decision, the appellate panel insisted that
DeMille got wind of Ruegemer's project as he was working on his epic government display of the religious text violates the constitutional
film, which starred Charlton Heston as Moses. DeMille, eager to drum separation of church and state, suggesting that some faith traditions
up publicity for the 1956 mUl(ie, proposed displaying bronze tablets are officially favored.
instead of paper copies, but Ruegemer felt that granite markers would
be more appropriate, arguing that the original Ten Commandments Court precedents "simply prevent government at any level from
were probably made of stone. DeMille agreed and authorized intruding into the religious life of our people by sponsoring or
Ruegemer to contract with a Minnesota granite firm to begin endorsing a particular perspective on religious matters," observed the
2-1 majority. "It prevents, as Justice O'Connor has pointed out, a vote in the House, and the crusade is going nowhere in the courts.
government from creating among our people' ins' and' outs' on the Nevertheless, Religious Right leaders have vowed to keep fighting. On
basis of religion." the day the Supreme Court refused the Elkhart case, several released
statements blasting the court action.
Monument defenders, disappointed with the appeals court's decision,
urged the Supreme Court to take the case. But the court said no n Falwell, in his Falwell Confidential bulletin, asserted that "people of
over the strong objections of Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist. (Four faith across the nation were disheartened" by the action. The
members of the high court must agree to take a case in order to get Lynchburg televangelist went on to claim that "activist judges are
the dispute on the docket.) deliberately ignoring the actuality of America's founding -- an actuality
of dependence on the Bible and Judeo-Christian values."
Why ali the sudden interest in the Ten Commandments? Much of the
activity stems from the Religious Right. At ieast four organizations The day after the high court rejected the case, ACU founder Robertson
have been active in this area recently n Liberty Counsei, lV preacher ranted about the justices' action on his "700 Club" program. The
Pat Robertson's American Center For Law and Justice (ACU), the Virginia Beach teievangelist called the action "the craziest thing" and
National Clergy Council and the Family Research Council (FRC). wasted no time launching an attack on church-state separation.

Many of these organizations are still smarting from the Supreme - Asserted Robertson, "There's nothing in the Constitution that ever
Court's 1980 Stone v. Graham ruling. In Stone, the high court struck intended this, nor n and this is very important n the phrase
down a Kentucky law req);!iriLlgcthe posting of the Ten Commandments 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the United States
in all public sc.hOj?ls. Religious Right groups may see the current Constitution. It was in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union, but
crusade 'as a w'i,y" to spark a new challenge to that holding and build not in the U.S. Constitution."
pu6lic support for their other politicai objectives ..
Robertson insisted that Congress should stand up to "the power of the
The groups are also angry over more recent decisions by lower courts black-robed justices." Congress, he said, "can take away their money.
striking down government display of the Ten Commandments. In 1994 They can also take away their appellate jurisdiction if they so choose,
the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered officials in Cobb County, because the Constitution gives that power."
Ga., to remove a Ten Commandments display from the courthouse. In
addition, Americans United has won legal cases against government The ACU, which heiped defend the city of Elkhart and has worked on
display of the Ten Commandments in Charleston, S.c., and Manhattan, other Ten Commandments cases, issued a bland statement expressing
Kan. disappointment. Earlier, however, the organization had bitterly
criticized groups like Americans United for opposing such displays. In a
Undaunted by the string of legal defeats, FRC, a group loosely shrill fund-raising letter mailed in March, ACU Chief Counsel Jay
affiliated with radio counselor James C. Dobson's Focus on the Family, Sekulow asserted that court action against government display of the
launched a special Ten Commandments project In November of 1999. Ten Commandments could put the country on a ". slippery slope'
Called "Hang Ten," the effort was designed to encourage state and toward moral ruin."
local governments to post the Decalogue at government buildings and
public schools as well as win passage of the "Ten Commandments Religious Right legal groups have prodded local officials to continue
Defense Act," legislation sponsored by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) fighting for the commandments, despite the prevailing legal trend.
that would have stripped the federal courts of their ability to even hear
legal cases challenging government-sponsored Ten Commandments Even in Elkhart, resistance remains. Local officials have pledged to find
displays. a way to keep the Ten Commandments monument in piace. Mayor
David Miller, a 44-year-old graphic artist who has led the campaign to
FRC announced the "Hang Ten" campaign with much fanfare, but the defend the marker, told reporters, "I will fight to keep the monument
project hasn't achieved much so far. Aderholt's bill has never come to standing right where it is."
During the legal battle, Miller went so far as to design promonument Steven K. Green, legal director for Americans United, researched this
bumper stickers and led a petition drive to keep the commandments question in 1999-2000 for a scholarly article that appeared in the
up. With his final legal appeal exhausted, Miller has proposed adding Journal of Law & Religion (Vol. XIV, No.2). Green, who holds a Ph.D.
other types of historical documents and markers around the in religious and constitutional history, concluded that the claim that
monument, which he argues will make the display constitutional. U.s. law is based on the Ten Commandments is usually asserted and
accepted as a given without historical evidence. For example, Chief
Attorneys at the Indiana branch of the ACLU disagree and have Justice Rehnquist in his recent Elkhart dissent, referred to "the
proposed moving the monument to private property. U.S. District foundational role of the Ten Commandments in secular, legal matters."
Judge Allen Sharp has been given the task of finding a solution. Sharp But he cited no precedent or scholarly authority for that view.
has been directed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to ensure that
"although the condition that offends the Constitution is eliminated, Green notes that American law is an outgrowth of British common law
Elkhart retains the authority to make decisions regarding the and "more generally, the Western legal tradition." Claims that the
placement of the monument." (One suggestion involves selling the common law was based on the Bible, he says, were first put forth by
monument and the land around it to a private group.) scholar monks in the Dark Ages, who were trying to defend the

An Internet poll sponsored by the Elkhart Truth newspaper found that - supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church over temporal governments.
The claim is shaky at best, Green writes, pointing out that the
71 percent of respondents favored leaving the Ten Commandments common law "relied primarily on custom."
where it is. Although such:polls..are not scientifically valid, city leaders
insist that the ~rwhe ming majority of residents oppose moving the Green also discovered that America's Founding Fathers adopted only
marker. . that portion of British common law that "was consistent with
republican ideals." He writes of the Founding period, "[I]t is not
"Like the residents of Elkhart, most Americans, polls show, favor the surprising that express references to the Decalogue or scripture as a
idea of government promotion of the Ten Commandments. One source of law were nonexistent."
survey, conducted in July of 1999, found 74 percent endorsing the
idea of Ten Commandments displays in public schools. But those polls Even a cursory reading of the Constitution debunks the claim that U.S.
also show Widespread ignorance about what the commandments say. law is based on the Ten Commandments. The Constitution contains no
A few years ago, a Gallup poll found that only 42 percent of Americans religious directives whatsoever and makes no mention of the Ten
are able to name even five of the Ten Commandments. Commandments or even God. The Constitution, a secular document,
instead establishes religious freedom for all by separating church and
Since most Americans don't know what the commandments say, it's state in the First Amendment. In addition, both Thomas Jefferson and
not surprising that many of them persist in believing that the John Adams explicitly denied that Christianity is the basis for American
Decalogue is the basis for U.S. law. In Elkhart, for example, one common law.
official asserted that the monument should stay because the
commandments, aside from their religious significance, have (And, despite frequent repetition by the Religious Right, there is no
influenced secular law. evidence that James Madison ever stated, "We have staked the whole
future of American civilization ... upon the capacity of each of us to
"This has tons of historical significance," said John Mann, a spokesman govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." This
for Mayor Miller. "Let's say that hypothetically, Moses got the Ten quotation pops up repeatedly in Religious Right circles, but it is almost
Commandments from aliens or just made them up or something. Still, certainly bogus.)
they are the basis for every modern legal system."
AU's Green concluded that arguments that U.S. law is based on the
This claim, while frequently spouted by Religious Right activists, does Ten Commandments or any religious code are specious. "At best, the
not stand up to historical scrutiny, say church-state experts. most that could be said about the relationship of the Ten
'The Rutherford Institute! "4(('\ di)f'T J j~)
it'c ''''';......" ...
Commandments to the law is that the former has influenced legal
notions of right and wrong ... ," Green concluded. "[T]hat has always
been a noncontroversial fact. But to Insist on a closer relationship or to The Fraternal Order of Eagles and the War over the Ten
hold the Ten Commandments up as having a special place in the Commandments
development of American law lacks historical support."
"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves," Jesus Christ
tells his followers in Matthew 10: 16. "Be ye therefore wise as serpents,
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said Green's and harmless as doves." Two millenia after the fact, Alabama Chief
research proving that the Ten Commandments are not the foundation Justice Roy Moore took these words to heart, at least in regard to the
of the American legal system will be extremely useful. Green's serpent, and slipped into the state Supreme Court bUilding one late night
schoiarshlp, said Lynn, shows that there is no "secular purpose" for shortly after his 2000 election. As Coral Ridge Ministries cameras rolled,
government display of the Ten Commandments. Moore and supporters installed a 5,300-pound granite monument in the
rotunda of the state courthouse displaying the Ten Commandments with
other historical documents inscribed on the sides.
Concluded Lynn. "There's an easy solution to this controversy: Let
religious groups promote the Ten Commandments. The government Moore first became associated with the Decalogue in the mid-1990s
should stay out of it." when, as an Etowah County judge, he posted a paper copy of the
Commandments in his courtroom. He successfully fought for three years,
- with the help of Rev. D. James Kennedy and the Alabama Christian

Coalition, to keep the modest display posted.
Questia Media America, Inc. www.queslia.com
-:.-.... " Moore gained a great deal of attention and
PUbli~ati?n Information: Article Title: T.he T~n Commandments a Sequel. support with the same sort of radical
Cont~uto:s: Rob Boston - author. Magazine Title: Church & State. Volume: 54. Issue: stubbornness Alabama governor George Wallace
7. PublIcation Date: July 2001. Page Number: 9. COPYRIGHT 2001 Americans United defiantly displayed a few decades earlier. In
for Separation of Church and State; COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group 2000, the brash West Point grad was elected the
top judicial officer in Alabama, in part for
pledging to bring the Ten Commandments with
him. As Moore has fought his much-publicized
battle over the last few years (and continues to
fight), Ten Commandments displays around the
country have fallen into the spotlight in their
respective regions. Over the last few years, the
ACLU and similar but smaller groups have filed
lawsuits in small towns and cities throughout
America to remove Commandments monuments from public property.

As Moore awaits a decision in his appeal of his removal as Chief Justice,

traveling the country accepting awards from the Constitution Party (there
are rumors that he will accept their presidential nomination) and making
appearances at Commandments rallies, Decalogue displays everywhere
are being removed either voluntarily or by court order. Unlike Moore's
carefully crafted Commandments paean, though, most of the monuments
currently subjected to review involve gifts from the Fraternal Order of
Eagles made three to four decades ago to hundreds of cities (a recent
Reuters article claimed that at least 26 such monuments in 15 states
have been moved in recent years under court order or legal threat).

In 1943, a Minnesota juvenile court judge named E. J. Ruegemer hatched

a simple plan to save the youth of America, whom he saw as "without
any code of conduct or standards by which to govern their actions."
Accordingly, the judge concluded that the nation's juveniles "could benefit
from exposure to one of mankind's earliest codes of condUct, the Ten
Commandments." The judge also happened to be the chair of the Youth
Guidance Committee of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a goodwill group Commandments, and nearly all have found that the large monuments
. formed near the end of the 19th century that today claims as one of its . serve as state endorsement of religion because of their simple place on
chief accomplishments the advent of Mother's Day. public property. Most of the disputed stone slabs are often situated in
front of City Hall. In one instance, where the monument was ac~uallY .
The judge's proposal to post paper copies of the Ten Commandments in allowed to stay, a Texas court took into account the monument s location
juvenile court houses throughout the country was initially rejected by the near a rarely used side exit.
Eagles. Despite the judge's stipulation that the Decalogue displays were
"not to be a religious instruction of any kind" and were intended only as In that case a homeless man living in Austin sued for the monument's
"recognized codes of behavior to guide and help them," the Eagles removal next to the state capitol building. However, the court ruled in
leadership expressed concern that supporting the dissemination of the December 2003 that no reasonable person would consider the display a
Commandments "might seem coercive or sectarian." religious endorsement. Donated to the state in 1961 by the FOE, the 5-
foot-high granite display was found to have the secular purpo~e ~f
However, their concerns were alleviated when a council of Protestant, encouraging youth morality. Contributing factors to the U.S. Dlstnct
Jewish, and Catholic laymen endorsed a version of the Decalogue and the Court's decision included the lack of a state seal or Texas star on the
Eagles agreed to sponsor the youth gUidance program. As the story goes, monument. The judge also said that its location-next to a seldom used
it was at this point that movie director Cecil B. DeMille, in the midst of door and facing away from vehicle traffic-weakened the plaintiff's claim.
producing the blockbuster The Ten Commandments, caught wind of the
plan, contacted Ruegemer and suggested that instead of paper, the ThiS "victory" illustrates the basic struggle for any Commandments p.U?lic
Decalogue should be inscribed on bronze plaques. The juvenile court display. Absent a defiant magistrate, a city must prove its lack of religIOUS
judge countered that since the Commandments, according to biblical intent. As in Austin, an obstructed view can be an important factor.
tradition, were written on stone, so should these monuments be. With this Recently, City Council members in Albert Lea, Minn. pledged to keep a
decision, two local granite companies began crafting displays in the shaper ... nearly identical monument to the one in Duluth in their Central Park. "I
of two tablets, paid for and distributed by various Eagle chapters or don't see where there's a problem with it being there," one Council
"aeries" to numerous state and local governments across America. While member told a newspaper. A second added, "We could use a little more
it is impossible to deter,rn.ne the~exact number of monuments produced religion in the world." A third seemed more pragmatic. "It really makes no
and installed, .ij:oois__believed that up to 2,000 were eventually distributed difference to me either way," he said. "I can understand both sides." The
a,pd "accepted over the following two decades. paper noted what may very well be more important than resolve for. the
survival of the monument if the ACLU brings suit. The sizeable slab IS
Today, these monuments, which are often grand partially obscured by a few evergreen trees.
in size and resemble a giant tombstone, are the
subject of most litigation involving Ten A few cities in the same situation as Albert Lea have tried to avoid
Commandments displays. A quick survey of removal by selling the patch of land the monument is on to the Fraternal
current and recent litigation turned up dozens of Order of Eagles, thus making the installation private. The FOE donated
cases around the country, the most recent one of its monuments to Frederick in 1958. For much of its existence, the
involving a reddish stone installation in front of stone display stood in front of City Hall but was eventually moved to a
City Hall that the FOE gave to Duluth, Minn. in city park where it was planted among other items like a George
1957. The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union filed Washington plaque and various war memorials. In 2002, the ACLU sought
suit in the first week of March to remove the to remove the monument but dropped its suit after the city sold the
display for violating the First Amendment by monument and a parcel of land to the FOE. In 2003, Americans United for
promoting one religion over another. The MCLU Separation of Church and State filed suit against the city and the FOE,
attorney stated that the monument "excludes challenging the transaction.
those people who don't believe in the Ten
Commandments. They may be atheists ... they may be BUddhist, they i-::::;;;:;;:-----iFaced with similar litigation, the Casper,
may be Hindu, they may be Muslim." Only days later, the Duluth City Wyoming City Council voted to remove their
Council voted 5-4 to remove the 7-foot-high monument. Neither the en Commandments monument from City Park
crowd of Commandments supporters outside the building nor impassioned in October of 2003 after the Freedom from
speakers inside could dissuade the council from its fears of costly Religion Foundation asked that it be removed
litigation (estimates of $20,000). While there have been a number of from government property. After long,
offers to house it, no concrete plans have been made for the display's involved debates, Council members voted 5-4
departure or where the Eagles' gift will eventually rest. Meanwhile, L --:- -:-~to move the Ten Commandments to a historic
citizens in support of the monument have raised over $17,000 and plaza, where they can be viewed as an "integral part of history." Part of
collected 2,000 signatures, with 3,000 more needed to put the display on the city's motivation stemmed from the fea: ~hat they ~~st a~so allow
a November ballot. other monuments that espouse differing religiOUS or polttlcal views.
Kansas anti-gay extremist Fred Phelps, head of God Hates Fags, has
So far, most monument litigation has met a similar fate. Despite efforts called for the installation of his own monument (click here to see a larger
to avoid a legal battle, many challenged cities are drawn into court. As a image) in Casper condemning slain gay student Matthew Shepard.
result, judges are called upon to decide the fate of the Ten
Rev. Phelps made similar entreaties throughout the West after the Tenth over another, Card suggested that the Commandments should be moved
, Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2002 in Summum v. Ogden that public • to the nearby Presbyterian Church or given to the Everett Eagles-the
bodies must accept displays of alternate messages if they continue to organization that donated the monument to the city in 1959. A decision
keep Ten Commandments monuments on public property. This past fall, has not yet been made in the case, but a resolution was recently passed
the Tenth Circuit refused to reconsider its ruling that constitutional stipulating that the city council "vigorously supports efforts by the city of
guarantees of free speech require the city to remove the Ten Everett to maintain its long-standing monument containing the Ten
Commandments monument or accept one listing the "Seven Aphorisms" of Commandments outside old city hall."
Summum, a religion founded in Salt Lake City 27 years ago. Summum
sued the city in 1999 after it refused to accept a donation of a stone Kansas c;ty, Kansas
monument listing Summum's tenets. The Ten Commandments monument In June of 2003, a Commandments monument in front of Wyandotte
was donated to the city in 1966 by the Ogden Fraternal Order of Eagles. County Courthouse was moved to a Catholic Church lawn 150 feet away.
The ruling prompted the state of Utah to move or remove seven The local board of commissioners voted 8-0 to move the monument after
monuments from public property across the state, not only in Salt Lake the ACLU threatened to sue the city jf the nearly 40-year-old monument
City but also in Ogden, Murray, Tooele, Roy and Provo. remained. "At a time when we're trying to save money any way we can
and lower taxes, it just seems to be a prudent decision to make," said
Similar apprehensions caused Boise, Idaho officials in January 2003 to Commissioner Kelley Kultala.
vote to remove a display of the Decalogue from the City Park and return
it to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which donated it to the city in 1965. Plattsmouth, Nebraska
The Council made the decision in hopes of heading off Rev. Phelps, whose In 2002, the ACLU filed suit to remove a monument of the Ten
request to install his monument is set for a hearing before the Council Commandments from City Park. A district court judge ruled against the
this April 6th. After the Council's decision to remove the marker, a Keep city of Plattsmouth and ordered the monument removed. Later that year
the Commandments Coalition formed and filed a lawsuit to obstruct the -- ... an appeal was filed and on February 18, 2004, the Eighth Circuit upheld
city from removing the monument. On February 11, 2004, a judge for the the ruling that the monument must be removed.
U.S. District Court denied the coalition's request and gave the county the
freedom to move the ,mCSrlUrilent. The City Council, trying to recoup legal La Crosse, Wisconsin
expenses fron1"the Coalition for the costs of litigation so far encurred, The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against the city to
moved the 3,000-pond monument on Monday, March 29th, by crane to a remove a 35-year-old monument from the City Park. Immediately after
nearby Episcopal Church that faces the state Capitol. the sl:lit was filed, the city sold the monument, along with a 440 square-
foot plot, to the same organization, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, that
Thirteen advocates of the monument, including State Rep. Henry Kulczyk, had initially donated the display. Terms of the sale required the
were arrested before the display's removal. Grandmother and pharmacist organization to erect fences and post disclaimers clearly stating that the
Gloria Pfost, facing a possible $300 fine and six months in jail if display and area were privately owned. Despite these measures, a District
convicted, remained undeterred. "I would give more than just a fine and Court Judge ruled in February 2004 that the monument must be removed
time In jail for this/' she told The Idaho Statesman. "I would give my from Cameron Park in La Crosse. Following the ruling, the La Crosse
right arm, and even more than that." common council voted 13-2 to appeal the case to the Seventh Circuit
Court of Appeals.
Outside the Tenth Circuit's jurisdiction, though,
and absent any more federal rulings, courts have Habersham County, Georg;a
generally followed accepted doctrine prohibiting In 2003, part-time Baptist minister Bo Turner filed suit against the county
state endorsement of religion. Because the FOE of Habersham to remove the display of the Ten Commandments on the
monuments are so conspicuous and typically county courthouse and a public swimming pool. Turner claimed that as a
perceived as tied to one religion, Christianity, religious symbol the Commandments had no place in the courthouse. On
many courts have found them in violation of the November 18, 2003, a district court judge ruled that the city must
Constitution. Considering the high profile of Roy remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse and a public
Moore's attempt to install his monument, as well swimming pool. The Habersham commission voted on February 9, 2004
as the increased visibility of religion in not to appeal the case and agreed to move the monuments.
contemporary culture, these monuments are
likely to come under increased review. The Hanover, Pennsylvania
~ .- following are additional current or recent cases In early February 2004, Americans United for Separation of Church and
involving Ten Commandments monuments that State threatened county officials with a laWSUit if the Ten Commandments
were originally donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles: are not removed from Wirt Park in Hanover, York County. County officials
are not sure if they can afford a costly legal battle over the monument
Everett, Wash;ngton and have not yet made a decision as to what they should do. Several
In September of 2003, 20-year-old Jesse Card filed a $1 suit against the churches in the area have offered to help pay to have the
city of Everett, demanding that the Ten Commandments monument in Commandments moved to their private property. Many townspeople are
front of the city's police station be removed (click here to see an image). opposed to the proposed removal from the park and over 10,000 people
Arguing that the monument is equal to state endorsement of one religion have signed a petition asking the county to fight the lawsuit. Council
members say it could be months before a decision is made.

RELATED LINKS: Journal of Religion & Society Volume 6 (2004)

White Paper: Affirming Religious and Traditional Heritage: ISSN 1522-5658

Constitutional Guidelines for Displaying the Ten Commandments Ten Commandments Monuments and the Rivalry oflconic
Press Release: Rutherford Institute Assists Arkansas District Judge
in Defending Constitutional Display of Ten Commandments in James W. Watts, Syracuse University
Legal feature: The Law on "The law": Why Roy Moore Lost The legal and political controversy over Ten Commandments monuments in the United States
revolves around iconic texts holding a discrete symbolic value compared to texts whose function

. ~~ ~~\
primarily is to be read. A comparative perspective on iconic texts reveals that the nation's
founding documents, the Declaration ofIndependence, the Constitution. and the Bill of Rights.

have also been increasingly turned into monumental icons over the last half-century. The

Discuss this article on the new
commandments controversy can therefore be understood as competition among iconic texts for
symbolic supremacy. At stake in that struggle are basic issues over how the nation will represent
the government's relationship to the many religions represented within its popUlation.
~ ~' Rutherford Freedom Forum message
.. board! Introduction
~ ~~~y~ ~
[1] The legal and political controversy over Ten Conunandments monuments in the United
States involves iconic texts holding a discrete symbolic value compared to texts whose function
primarily is to be read. The nation's founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, the
(. Sign-up to receive The Rutherford Institute's Insider Report E- Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, have also increasingly been turned into monumental icons
"") newsl etter! over the last half-century. The Ten Commandments controversy can therefore be understood in
terms of competition among iconic texts for symbolic supremacy. Like the placement of divine
Get your free copy of the Bill of Rights! images in ancient Near Eastern temples, struggles over the public display of iconic national and
religious texts involve claims for their relative prestige in contemporary America.
Support the Fight! Give Today! [2] I will defend these claims by describing the nature of iconic texts and the trend to enshrine
American national texts as icons. First, I will review the recent controversy over Ten
Legal Feature Archives
Conunandments monuments, since events in Alabama in 2003 demonstrated very clearly that the
Ten Conunandments is an iconic text in America. The essential features of the extensive media
coverage of this event are as follows:
[3] In 2001, the newly elected Alabama Chief Justice, Roy Moore, installed a two-ton granite
monument of the Ten Conunandments in the rotunda of the State Judicial Building. After a series
of lawsuits, in the summer of 2003 a Federal court ordered the monument removed, calling its
presence there an infringement on the constitutional separation between church and state. This
order prompted an outpouring of support for the monument and for Judge Moore. Evangelical
Christians protested and prayed by the commandments and in front of the building after they
The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482 were evicted from the premises. A rabbi promised Moore the support of two Orthodox Jewish
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482 organizations. Delays in implementing the court order extended the protests for several weeks,
Phone :: 434.978.3888 (8:30 AM - 5:00 PM Eastern) I Fax :: 434.978.1789
General inquiries:: staff@rutherford.org Legal assistance:: tristaff@rutherford.org until finally the monument was removed from view (AP, August 1,2001; August 15, 2003;
Technical comments:: webmaster@rutherford.org CNN).
[4] The media covered these events extensively both in the United States and abroad. They
prompted considerable debate about religion, law, and the state, but also much bemusement over
") the intense emotions the presence of this monument aroused. No one should have been surprised;

Journal ofReligion & Society 1 6 (2004)

similar events had occurred around the country for the past several years. In 2002, protesters had [9] The Alabama Ten Commandments clearly fits the description of an iconic text. Of course,
to be dragged away from a plaque of the Ten Commandments in Chester County, Pennsylvania. proponents of the Ten Commandments movement also promote reading the commandments: one
so that it could be covered while a lawsuit over its display was appealed (Philadelphia Inquirer, philanthropist promised ten dollars to every child in American who memorized them (AP, April
April 23, 2002). One judge ordered the plaque removed, but an appeals court overruled the order, 10,2003). However, it is important to state again that the Alabama monument was designed to
saying that the plaque could be preserved because of its eighty.three-year-old historical value be seen as much as read. Its massive bulk symbolized divine authority behind human law. Its
(Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 2003). Other lawsuits against Ten Commandments public display in a court building laid claim to the representation of religion as a fundamental
monuments on public land have been filed in numerous communities. Sometimes, protests have source of American goverrunent (see Ten Commandments Defense Fund).
occurred against Ten Commandments monuments (for example, in Austin, Texas; see Metroplex
[10] Therefore, the controversy over the monument is one symptom of contemporary culture's
Atheists), and in a few places such monuments have even been vandalized with graffiti stating
increasing fascination with iconic texts. Examining the debate in the context of iconic books and
that they are unconstitutional (as in South Bend, Indiana; see South Bend Tribune).
texts casts the political and religious forces in conflict over Ten Commandments monuments in a
[5] Clearly, a plaque or monument of the Ten Commandments carries powerful symbolism in different light than do the usual legal and political commentaries.
contemporary America. But why has this symbol now become such an object of devotion,
derision, and conflict? The news coverage of the Alabama commandments monument COJUlects The Ten Commandments Movement
to an aspect of my own research that may shed some light on this phenomenon. [11] A "Ten Commandments movement" has been gathering steam for several years. In 2000,
the Associated Press reported that "With its message on yard signs, book covers and on the walls
Iconic Books and Texts
[6] The Iconic Book Project at Syracuse University is assembling a database of images and
- of courthouses and public classrooms, a Ten Commandments movement is pushing forward in
Kentucky and nationwide" (January 7, 2000). The article mentioned efforts to post Ten
descriptions of iconic books. An "iconic" book or text may be defined as one that is manipulated, Commandments in courts and schools in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and California, and spoke of
displayed, venerated, and/or decor~tedJn~dditionto being read. To a certain extent, all books Ten Commandments rallies across the country. Frank Flinn wrote: "This controversy is quickly
are iconic because bool$.§. are symbolic representations of culture. Books that appear in works of replacing abortion as the litmus test for Christian values in the public forum. A complicated
art aim to evokt;asso~ations with education, religious authority, and law, to name a few constitutional lawsuit over abortion is difficult to pay for and argue. Hanging the Decalogue in a
exampfes:The possession of books characterizes the owner's learning or piety. However, sacred public hallway is both cheap and easy." The escalating battles since then over such monuments
religious books and political texts carry more iconic status than other books and texts. The ritual confIrm his assessment.
display of sacred books establishes the legitimacy of religious rituals and the authority of
[12] The Associated Press also reported in 2000 that "Roy Moore, an Alabama circuit judge who
religious leaders. Politicians in many cultures use sacred texts or national constitutions in
refused to take down the commandments posted in his courtroom in 1995, has spoken about his
swearing-in ceremonies that legitimize political authority and succession. Religious scriptures
case at Christian rallies across the country - including one Nov. 7 in Corbin, Ky., that 3,000
often receive extensive embellislunent of their texts and covers, as well as elaborate cases for
people attended. He encourages school boards to post the Ten Commandments even if it means a
preservation and display. In all these ways, people treat books as icons, that is, the symbolic
costly lawsuit for the district" (January 7, 2000). Later that year, Moore campaigned for Chief
manifestation of divine authority and/or state sovereignty.
Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court on the slogan "The Ten Commandment's Judge" and won
[7] The Iconic Book Project subjects the phenomenon of iconic books to cross-cultural by a wide margin.
comparison and analysis, looking for cultural and historical patterns of usage and development.
[13] When Moore installed his granite monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial
Although the project has only recently gotten underway, some provisional conclusions can
Building, he did so in the middle of the night and without consulting the other justices of the
already be drawn from this materiaL One of these conclusions is that the iconic use of books in
court. However, he made sure his action was noticed: "A Florida TV preacher who supports
Western culture has not declined in modem times. It has in fact increased over the nineteenth and
Moore, D. James Kennedy, had a crew from his Coral Ridge Ministries film the installation and
twentieth centuries, and plays a central role in many contemporary religions as well as in the
offered videotapes of it for a donation of$19," the Associated Press reported (October 16,2002).
political discourses of many countries.
In the lawsuits that followed, Moore testified that he began planning to put a monument in the
[8] One kind of evidence for this conclusion can be found in the depictions of scriptures in art. judicial building at his inauguration in January 2001. Moore acted self-consciously to promote a
Prior to the nineteenth century, books or other kinds of texts were usually depicted with people: national movement of Christian political action, and to defy opposing social forces. His defense
they signify the person's scholarship or religious orthodoxy or, in the case of divine figures, the attorney called the suits against the monument part of a national movement "to censor God." It
source of the book's authority. Traditional Jewish art generally did not portray Torah scrolls, may be fair to say that in the course of this controversy, the Ten Commandments have become a
preferring to depict the ark that contains the scrolls. However, in imagery from the last one symbol representing Evangelical political goals.
hundred and fifty years, sacred books and scrolls have been freed of such contexts; they become [14] However, other courthouse monuments of the Ten Commandments are products of much
objects of artistic interest in themselves. Pictures of Bibles or Torah scrolls or Qurans now
earlier movements. The Ten Commandments have been a common theme in Western religious
appear frequently as the focus of attention in works of art and popular media. They have become and legal art. The tablets on which the commandments are traditionally represented, alone or
independent icons of religious truth and power in contemporary visual culture.

Journal ofReligion & Society 2 6 (2004) Journal ofReligion & Society 3 6 (2004)

with lions rampant, often decorate the synagogue arks containing the Torah scrolls. The "holy synthesize the different wording and enumeration of the commandments in Jewish, Catholic, and
ark" [ha 'aron haqodesh] usually occupies the most prominent position facing the congregation. Protestant traditions to produce a version acceptable to all. The commandments monuments were
The tablets of the commandments emphasize the centrality of law in Jewish tradition, and are a therefore one more expression of the mid-twentieth century effort to promote an American civil
common feature of synagogue architecture. The fact that the tablets often contain only the religion that also produced the phrase "under God" in its Pledge of Allegiance. This effort built
munbers one through ten in Hebrew characters (or Roman numerals in Christian iconography) in on a tradition dating back to the 1864, when the phrase "In God We Trust" first appeared on U.S.
place of the actual commandments further illustrates their iconic role in Jewish and Christian coins. These efforts during the Civil War and Cold War tapped religious sentiment to fuel
cultures. American nationalism. The Ten Commandments monuments, by virtue of their monumental
[15] During the Protestant Refonnation of the sixteenth century, some European churches character, gave God a visible place in public space, which is what their sponsors intended.
replaced their pictorial altar pieces with biblical texts, often the Ten Commandments, as part of Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin observe that this is the function of any public monument:
an iconoclastic reaction against images in churches (Koerner). In England, "Decalogue boards" "The Monument expresses the power and sense of the society that gives it meaning, and at the
same time obscures competing claims for authority and meaning" (7).
appeared after the Refonnation, not only to demonstrate essentials of Christian behavior but also
the legal power of the state over the church. Few have survived the changing tides of English [19] Claims for the universalism of the commandments encounter more resistance at the
religious politics: many were painted over by seventeenth-century Puritans who opposed all beginning of the twenty-first century, however, when immigration has diversified the American
visual displays, even textual ones; others were reinstalled by eighteenth-century Evangelicals, religious landscape and Christian and Jewish communities find themselves split internally over
but were dismantled again by the nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement (see many issues, including state display of the commandments. For example, several groups
Suffolk County Churches). Their fate shows that the Ten Commandments have long been a representing Christian and Jewish denominations as well as interfaith organizations filed amici
potent symbol when religion and state clash over issues oflaw. It also demonstrates that their" curiae briefs opposing the Alabama Ten Commandments monument (see Alabama Supreme
symbolism may be wielded by the state against religious dissidents as much as by religious Court), in contrast to the Christian and Jewish support for it cited above. The commandments
groups against state authority. ." have now become a symbol of conservative political and religious agendas in an era when sharp
C;; -",
ideological differences divide both political and religious institutions.
[16] Art in other conte~..s..usua11Yportraysthe commandments in the hands of Moses, in a scene
often reproduced.in monUiilental sculpture decorating graveyards and memorials, American law [20] Some advocates are using the decades-old tolerance for monuments to the Ten
schools:ana courthouses. The current U.S. Supreme Court building, opened in 1935, portrays Commandments for openly divisive purposes. Reverend Fred Phelps proposed erecting
Moses holding the tablets of the commandments as the central and largest figure on its east monuments on public lands in cities in Wyoming, Idaho, and Kansas to commemorate Matthew
pediment. Court rulings allow such displays if they are motivated by historical, rather than Shephard, murdered in 1998 because he was gay. But he intended to commemorate Shephard not
religious, intent. In this case, Confucius and Solon flank Moses so that the three represent as a victim of murder, but as an object lesson of someone who "entered hell" because of his
historical antecedents of U.S. law in Chinese, Hebrew, and Greek cultures. But Moses' central homosexual behavior. In Pennsylvania, Phelps announced a similar effort to focus on a gay man
position and larger size nevertheless lends support to the Ten Commandments movement: who committed suicide in 1997. Phelps cited a ruling of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that
proponents often cite it and other artwork depicting Moses and the commandments in "any city that displays a Ten Commandments monument on public property must also allow
Washington government buildings as examples of the Federal Judiciary's hypocrisy in outlawing monuments espousing the views of other religions or political groups on that same property"
Ten Commandments displays on public land (for example, Pat Robertson on CBNNews and the (AP, February 1,2004). The city council ofeasper, Wyoming, where Shephard was murdered,
photo essays by Carrie Devorah in the National Conservative Weekly). considered removing their Ten Commandments monument, donated by the FOE in 1965, to
[17] Religious groups set up Ten Commandments monuments on public sites in some American frustrate Phelps' legal challenge. These developments illustrate not only the complicated legal
cities as early as the 1920s. During World War II, Minnesota Judge E. J. Ruegemer, with the problems posed by religious monuments, but also the iconic tendency of monuments to generate
more monuments. When society enshrines some texts, opposing social groups tend to interpret
support of the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE), a nation-wide service club, pushed to have the
the symbolic relationship between such texts differently, some seeing them as mutually
Ten Commandments posted on the walls ofjuvenile court rooms (Mittlebeeler). Ruegemer
defended this action as non-sectarian because ''the Commandments are not just a religious rule, supportive while others view them as contradictory. Since the relationships between iconic texts
is symbolic, such disputes cannot be resolved by simply interpreting the contents of the texts.
but a good code of conduct which can be followed by everyone, regardless of creed" (ACLJ).
The trend gathered steam in the 1950s, when the FOE began donating granite monuments of the [21] The net effect of this history is that the Ten Commandments have become a common
Ten Commandments to courthouses across the country. This effort was bankrolled by Cecil B. symbol for the claim that U.S. law and government developed from religious roots and that it
De-Mille, whose movie "The Ten Commandments" was released in 1956 (FOE). The FOE claim should remain true to them. However, the; Ten Commandments are not alone in being displayed
to have set up over four thousand monuments to date (Minneapolis Star Tribune). In the 1990s, on public property as iconic texts. In fact, the Ten Commandments movement is playing catch-
Evangelical Christians reenergized such efforts by mobilizing to defend existing monuments and up with another movement in American society, the one to elevate the country's foundational
install new ones. documents to the status of iconic texts. This movement has developed in ways that parallel both
the Ten Commandments movement and other ways in which religious groups revere and
[18] Proponents have often repeated the claim that the commandments distill a moral and
popularize their sacred texts.
spiritual code common to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions. The FOE worked to

Journal ofReligion & Society 4 6 (2004) Journal ofReligion & Society 5 6 (2004)
_ _J
Iconic National Texts text panels and labels, sculpture, and the Internet - to bring the document to life
(National Constitution Center).
[22] Since the late 19405, another American service organization, the Exchange Club, has been
placing "Freedom Shrines" in public schools, government buildings, and courthouses throughout This textual theme park invites comparison with Christian Bible theme parks that have been
the United States. The shrines contain twenty or thirty documents, including the Declaration of popular in recent decades (Jim Bakker's well-known "Heritage USA" went bankrupt in the late
Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, as well as materials ranging in date from 1980s, but there are others: Holy Land Experience opened in 2000 in Orlando, Florida; an old
the Mayflower Compact to Martin Luther King, Jt.'s "I Have a Dream" speech (see NEe, example is Field of the Woods in Murphy, North Carolina, which among other things advertises
"Freedom Shrine"). The National Exchange Club developed Freedom Shrines as part of its ''the world's largest Ten Commandments"). In Philadelphia's Constitution Center, the text of the
"Americanism" project, which promotes "pride in country, respect for the flag, and appreciation Constitution is etched in 450 feet of illuminated glass encircling the main exhibit hall. At its
of our freedoms" (NEC, "Americanism"). The club claims to have placed more than twelve opening, boosters proclaimed the universal importance of the Constitution in language that
thousand shrines nationwide. It distributes the shrines to its local clubs together with suggested makes the rhetoric of the Ten Commandments' movement look modest by comparison.
rituals and speeches for dedication ceremonies (NEC, "Exchange Marketplace"). "Through these elements, NCC visitors will discover the history behind the world's most
important document as well as the depth and breadth to which it affects every single American
[23] Around the middle of the twentieth century, the original founding documents of the United
today" (emphasis mine; for the current, somewhat less hyperbolic publicity, see NCC).
States were installed in the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. In the
installation ceremony, held on December 13, 1952, President Harry S. Truman said: [25] Thus, since the mid-twentieth century, the U.S. government and various private groups have
been raising the iconic status of the Constitution and its associated documents by treating them
The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are now
as visual symbols of the nation's government and ideals. Of course, proponents also hope to
assembled in one place for display and safekeeping ... We are engaged here ...r
encourage greater familiarity with them by having the public read them. The focus on their
today in a symbolic act. We are enshrining these documents for future ages ...
physical form, however, whether original (in the National Archives rotunda) or in reproduction
This magnificent hall has been ~onstructecl to exhibit them, and the vault beneath,
(in the Constitution Center and in Freedom Shrines), encourages a symbolism and universalistic
that we have b~ilt to protecf'thet1,~iS as safe from destruction as anything that the
rhetoric otherwise associated with the sacred texts of various religious traditions.
wit of m9de~ can devise. All this is an honorable effort, based upon
4'everence for the great past, and our generation can take just pride in it (NARA, The Rivalry of Iconic Texts
• (. emphasis mine).
[26] It is doubtful that the protestors at the Alabama courthouse would have liked these claims
After undergoing extensive renovations, the rotunda of the National Archives was reopened on about the incomparability of the U.S. Constitution. Not that the Ten Commandments movement
September 18, 2003. The National Archives publicized the event with rhetoric of a promised is inherently anti-constitutional; far from it. Some Evangelical leaders hold a very high view of
renewal of not only national but worldwide import: "The Charters of Freedom: A New World is the Constitution as "the greatest document ever penned by human hands," an oft.repeated catch-
at Hand," The following description captures a sense of the rotunda's architectural effect: phrase that exempts comparisons with divinely-inspired scripture (used in this way, for example,
Placed in the center of the grand 75-foot high domed semi-circular Rotunda, the by the conservative commentators Cal Thomas and David Black; Reverend Jerry Falwell prefers
Charters are currently displayed in a raised marble case, flanked by two 35-foot to restrict this accolade to the Declaration of Independence). However, they do want the
murals depicting the presentation of the Declaration of Independence to John Constitution and the Federal courts that interpret it to acknowledge the higher authority of God
Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, on the left; and James Madison and scripture. Some protestors in the Alabama monument incident wore t-shirts that juxtaposed a
presenting George Washington with the final draft of the U.S. Constitution, on the cross over the American flag and waved their bibles as they burned copies of the federal court
right. The Declaration is mounted vertically on the wall above the Constitution order to remove the monument from the rotunda (AP photo, August 31, 2003). This ritual
and the Bill of Rights. Each night the Charters are lowered twenty feet into a steel concisely represented the conflict as one between iconic texts, elevating one while destroying the
and reinforced concrete vault beneath the display area (NARA). other. It also illustrated the fact that the texts each side defended represent, and to some degree
camouflage, other realities: Evangelicals use the Ten Commandments as a cipher for the entire
The architecture of the rotunda and its display cases evokes, consciously or unconsciously, that
Christian Bible, an iconic text considered in its entirety to be the literal utterance of God, and
of a synagogue ark that holds Torah scrolls. Truman rightly described the foundational
which represents for them the sum of Evangelical beliefs about religion and politics. The Federal
documents as "enshrined."
Courts use the Constitution as a cipher for their own authority over American law, and over
[24] The tendency to characterize the Constitution as incomparable was taken even further by the every aspect of government and society that law touches. This sets the two texts, as icons, on a
publicity for the new National Constitution Center that opened in Philadelphia on July 4, 2003. It collision course for symbolic supremacy.
is promoted as a constitutional theme park:
[27] Some communities have compromised by combining the two movements. They have
Just as the Constitution affects every facet of Americans' daily lives, so will the incorporated the Ten Commandments into a display of significant "historical" documents, since
National Constitution Center (NCC) use a wide variety of media - interactive and court rulings allow historical, but not religious, displays. An imitator of Roy Moore erected a
multi-media exhibits, live actors and interpreters, film, music, artifacts, television, short-lived monument in North Carolina in front of the Winston-Salem City Hall with the Ten

Journal ofReligion & Society 6 6 (2004) Journal ofReligion & Society 7 6 (2004)

Commandments on one side and the Bill of Rights on the other (AP, January 20, 2004). More [32] From the perspective of the comparative study of iconic texts, however, such appeals to
successful examples can be found in Charles County, North Carolina, the Georgia State Capitol, basic textual reality look like one more invocation of the iconic nature of these books and texts
and the Garrard County Courthouse in Lancaster, Kentucky. The Christian Coalition sponsored as metaphors for political and religious authority. To claim greater reality or significance for the
the installation of such a display in the Alabama State Judicial Building after failing to save Roy words of texts than for their physical forms and images paradoxically enhances the unique
Moore's monument (CNSNews). But Roy Moore rejected this compromise: "To put things characteristics of texts that make them such potent icons in the first place. Books and texts have
around the Ten Commandments and secularize it is to deny the greatness of God," he said (AP, been invested with iconic status by long and widespread usage. The fact that some become
September 10,2003). "First, they hid the word of God in a closet; and now they tried to hide it particularly prominent in certain times and places does not mitigate the iconic function of all
among other historical documents. Neither is an acknowledgment of God" (CNSNews). texts.
[28] Moore's career exemplifies the fact that we live in a period of iconic struggle in which [33] Therefore, we cannot avoid the symbolic import of texts, nor the fact that some texts have
many of the most contested icons are books or texts. Analysis of this news from the perspective greater iconic appeal than others. A society can choose which texts to pro~ote and "enshrine:"
of comparative iconography allows one to see patterns of cultural development that the legal and this is exactly what the conflict over Ten Commandments monuments IS about. At stake In
arguments obscure. For example, some Evangelical observers have commented on the irony of its outcome is the fundamental issue of how the United States government will represent its
advocating stone monuments of commandments that forbid "carved images of anything in relationship to various religious ideas and the many different religious groups within the
heaven, on earth, or under the earth" (see Christianity Today). Christian opponents of Roy American population.
Moore have bluntly labeled his efforts "idolatrous" (New York Times; ABP). From this
perspective, the Federal courts can be viewed as iconoclasts trying to keep their "temples" pure Bibliography
from "foreign" influences. But the iconoclastic controversies between the supporters and
opponents of images that have periodically erupted in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history Academic Analyses
have generally resulted in replaci~g o~ set of iIpages with another, and this case is no exception.
'>t" ~
Flinn, Frank
[29] 1?~ public .dis~~~r?f icoiftc t~xts per s~ is not seriously in qu~stion in the current debate; 2000 "Whose Commandments? Which Version?" Scripps-Howard Newservice.
what IS In que~tIOn IS tHeIr appropnate locatIOn. Debates over locatIOn have been characteristic of
iconoClastic controversies, but an even better analogy to the current conflict can be found in Koerner, Joseph
ancient struggles for the supremacy of one image over others. Ancient gods were patrons of 2002 "The Icon as Iconoclasm." Pp. 204-9 in lconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in
particular temples and states, and the placement and relative positions of their images in ancient Science, Religion, and Art. Edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. Karlsruhe:
Near Eastern temples reflected the political status of kings and cities. Victorious kings would ZKM.
place the gods of conquered cities in subordinate positions before their own patron deity. (A
biblical story about such iconic rivalries can be found in 1 Samuel 5.) The iconic struggle over Mittlebeeler, Emmet V.
the Ten Commandments in contemporary America is less about whether to pennit iconic texts, 2003 "Ten Commandments." P. 434 in The Encyclopedia ofAmerican Religion and
and even less so about whether to enshrine the Ten Commandments or the Constitution. It is Politics. Edited by P. A. Djupe and L. R. Olson. New York: Facts on File.
rather about where to enshrine them and how to symbolize their relative position and status.
Nelson, Robert S. and Margaret Olin,
[30] Not often reported in the media frenzy over the Alabama case is the fact that the Alabama
2003 "Introduction." In Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade. Edited by R. S.
State Judicial Building already contained an iconic text, a bronze copy of the Bill of Rights
Nelson and M. Olin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
(Religion News Service). Moore and his supporters seem to want the Constitution to bow before
the Commandments and the Bible; in their words, they want the courts "to acknowledge God."
News Articles
The Federal Courts refuse to compromise the Constitution's symbolic supremacy over U.S.
government and society. Their rulings defend the sanctity of a national icon (the Constitution) Associated Baptist Press (ABP)
and its temples (the courts). Both the courts and religious groups are engaged in a battle for the August 26, 2003 "Moore: Defender of faith or dangerous demagogue?" by Robert Marus and
symbolic supremacy of their iconic texts. In Alabama, the granite commandments have come Greg Warner. http://www.abpnews.comlabpnewslstory.cfm?newsId=3786.
and gone, but the bronze Bill of Rights remains.
Associated Press (AP)
[31] Because Western culture has for so long privileged texts over images, many readers'
immediate reaction to this account may be to dismiss the entire conflict as superficial, as January 7, 2000 "Ten Commandments replacing abortion as key Christian issue, scholar
masking the "real" battles about how to interpret the important texts, specifically the Bible and says."
the Constitution. This perspective claims that interpretive issues in law and theology are more
~damental than symbolism, which functions simply as inexact shorthand for these underlying August 1,2001 "Alabama Chief Justice Unveils Ten Commandments in State Supreme
Issues. Court," from FoxNews. htlp://www.foxnews.com/story/0.2933.3l137.00.html.

I, Journal ofReligion & Society 8 6 (2004) Journal ofReligion & Society 9 6 (2004)

October 16, 2002 "Alabama chiefjustice defends controversial monument," by Bob Johnso~ The New York Times
in the Athens Banner Herald. August 24, 2003 "Ten Connnandments Supporters Rally On," by Jeffrey Gettleman.
http://www.onlineathens.comlstoriesll 01702/new 20021017071.shnnl. http://query.nytimes.comlgst!abstract.htrnl?res~FBOCI OFC3E5DOC778EDDA 10
August IS, 2003 "Commandments fight turns to high court," in the Athens Banner Herald. 894DB404482.
http://www.onlineathens.comlstoriesl081603/new_20030816083 .shtrnl. The Philadelphia InqUirer
August 31, 2003 photo in the Syracuse Post-Standard. April 23, 2002 "Hundreds protest shrouding of Connnandments," by Jonathan Gelb.
September 10, 2003 "Alabama governor unveils Capitol display including Ten http://www.pbilly.comlmJdlinquirer/3l20463.hnn.
Connnandments," by Kyle Wingfield. September 13,2003 "Commandments plaque will stay put in Cheseo," by Kathleen Brady
http://www.ardmoreite.comlstoriesl091003/new_alabama.shtrnl#. Shea.
January 20, 2004 "City Hall Ten Commandments monument surfaces in North Carolina," Religion News Service
from CNN. hnp:llwww.cnn.coml2004/US/SouthlOI/20/ten.connnandments.ap/.
January 10, 2004 "'Alabama Ten Conunandments monument is gone, not forgotten," by Roy
February 1, 2004 "Group seeks monument condemning gay victim," in Philadelphia Hoffman, at Seattle Times.
Inquirer. http://seattletirnes.nwsource.comlhtrnlllocalnewsl2001833718_tenIOm.htrnl.
s_countyI7848198.btrn. _ South Bend Tribune
August 7, 2001 "Commandments monument vandalized," by Margaret Fosmoe.
March 9, 2004 "Sekulow \Y.eighs in on Ten Commandments Battles." vandalized.btrnl.
, .
Other Web sources
ChristianIty TO'day
October 2003 "Editorial: God Reigns-Even in Alabama; Let's not make the Commandments Alabama Supreme Court
into a graven image." 47, 10: 35. James v. ACLU. http://www.pcusa.orglogalarnicuslarnI7.pdf.
http://www.christianitytoday.comlctl2003/0 I 0/34.35.btrnl.
American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)
Cable News Nerwork (CNN) "What's the Problem With Public Displays of the Ten Connnandments?" by Jay
November 14, 2003 "'Ten Commandments monument moved." Sekulow. http://www.aclj .org!resourceslequaVtencomm/020412_whats_the....Problem.asp.
David Black Online
CNSNews.com "Why do Conservative Cluistians Uphold the Scriptures Yet Compr?mise o.n ~e
February 06, 2004 "Ten Connnandments Return to Alabama Judicial Building," by Susan Constitution?" http://www.daveblackonline.com/why_do_conservatIve_chnstlans_u.hun.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE)
0402%5CNATZ0040206a.htrnl. "Commanding Presence: Judge E. 1. Ruegemer."
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
The Holy Land Experience
August 30, 2003 "Ten Commandments: Different state, different judge, different time," by
Warren Wolfe. http://www.theholylandexperience.comfindex.html.
The National Conservative Weekly McBible.com
November 24, 2003 "Exclusive Photo Essay: God in the Temples of Govemment," by Carrie "Founding Fathers - Libetty Alliance Article," by Jetty Falwell (August 10,2000).
Devorah. http://www.humaneventsonline.comlarticle.php?id=2441. hnp:llwww.mcbible.comIMiscO/020DatalFounding%20Fathers.htm.
December 19, 2003 "Exclusive Photo Essay: God in the Temples of Government: Part II," by Metroplex Atheists
Carrie Devorah. http://www.humaneventsonline.comlarticle.php?id~2664. "Respect Our Constitution Rally 2000." http://www.metroplexatheists.org!roc0300.htm.

Journal ofReligion & Society 11 6 (2004)

Journal ofReligion & Society 10 6 (2004)
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The National Constitution Center

The National Exchange Club (NEC)
"Americanism," http://www.nationalexchangeclub.comlProgramsServicela.htm.
"Exchange Marketplace."
"Freedom Shrine." http://www.freedomshrine.com/defaull.htm.
Roadside America
Field of the Woods in Mwphy, North Carolina, described with pictures.
II http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attractJNCMURcommand.html.
I Suffolk Country Churches
"Decalogue, Royal Arms." http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/zdecalogue.htm.
The Ten Commandments Defense Fund
Townhall.com ..- ~ 6-

"The Battle fOrThe Constitution," by Cal Thomas (June 4, 2(03).

U:S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
U.S. Supreme Coun "The East Pediment"
World History.com
"Heritage USA." http://www.worldhistory.com/wikilHlHeritage-USA.htm.



Journal ofReligion & Society 12 6 (2004)