Iowa Civil Liberties Union Condemns State Lawmakers' Call to Post Ten Commandments

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
March 1, 2000 12:00 am

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DES MOINES, IA — The Iowa Civil Liberties Union today condemned a proposal by 12 legislators to require posting of the Ten Commandments in the State Senate chamber.

Describing the proposal as a “profoundly insensitive display of governmental arrogance,” Ben Stone, the group’s executive director, said that in America, “politicians have no business telling people what to believe and how to act regarding religion.”

Stone pointed out that the Commandments deal with much more than rules governing how people should treat one another. They include demands that everyone believe in God, observe the Sabbath, not take the Lord¹s name in vain and not worship idols.

Senate Resolution 111, introduced February 29, requires the “prominent display” of the Ten Commandments in the Iowa Senate chamber, and “encourages all other Iowa state governmental bodies and political subdivisions” to do likewise.

The law thus calls for the posting of the religious text in all public schools, county courthouses and city halls, including, Stone noted with irony, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which is required by law to enforce laws against religious discrimination.

Stone criticized the members behind the proposal for, in effect, using the Senate Chamber to evangelize their personal religious viewpoints. “The Iowa Senate chamber belongs to all the people of Iowa, not just the senators who use it,” he said. “If some senators want to promote religious doctrines, let them form a club and do it as private citizens.”

Introduction of the resolution follows similar efforts in other states that appear to be part of a coordinated, nationwide campaign by religious political extremists to get the government to post the Ten Commandments all across the land.

Since 1997, there have been over a half dozen lawsuits by ACLU affiliates regarding the Ten Commandments. Stone says there have been at least three such lawsuits in the past four months alone. ACLU lawyers have thus far prevailed, relying on a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision which found the posting of the commandments in public schools to be in violation of the First Amendment.

ACLU affiliates in Illinois and Kentucky, among others, are currently battling efforts to post the Ten Commandments in public schools and government offices.

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