Legal debate is mistaken

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Question: When is granite more than just granite?

Answer: When the granite is actually a 5,300-pound monument to the Ten Commandments – a monument placed in a courthouse by an Alabama state judge and ordered removed by a federal court.

The monument has been a growing symbol for both sides of the argument that has risen up around it.

Chief Justice Roy Moore had the monument built and placed in the courthouse – a move ruled unconstitutional by the federal court.

That court held that Moore was in violation of the constitutional ban on government establishment of religion.

In actuality, though, was what Judge Moore did all that wrong?

Those who like to cite the supposed constitutional requirement that church and state be separated don’t like to be pressed on the issue, and the reason is simple. There is no such requirement in the U.S. Constitution.

That document was meant to protect the practice of religion, not to protect everyone from exposure to religious beliefs.

A monument to the Ten Commandments hardly seems like the sort of thing that would offend most people. After all, nearly every major religion in the world agrees on the basic tenets held in those 10 rules.

Christians, Muslims and Jews all share in the belief that the Ten Commandments are God’s will for our treatment of each other.

So they cannot be seen as the exclusive domain of one particular religion. How, then, can such a monument be seen as establishing a religion?

Opponents of public display of religious beliefs, though, argue that the monument violates their constitutional rights. According to a report by The Associated Press, one opponent of the judge said this week that his actions constituted a “blatant promotion of religion …”

That seems to be an argument against Judge Moore’s right to exercise of religion. That right, unlike the one imagined by Moore’s opponents, actually is found in the Constitution.

That said, this is a fight Moore is sure to lose. The federal court system has shown increasing hostility to religious expression when that expression occurs on public property.

We hope that is a trend that is reversed in the future.

We want our public officials to abide by the constitution, but we fear the eventual consequences when our judiciary feels free to write laws rather than simply interpret them.

Editorials represent the opinions of this newspaper and not of any one individual. As such, editorials are unsigned. Signed columns represent the individual opinion of the columnist and not necessarily of this newspaper.