July 14, 1999

House wants Ten Commandments
posted by government

___By Kenny Byrd
___Baptist Joint Committee
___WASHINGTON (ABP)--As part of legislation to curb juvenile violence, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to permit states to post the Ten Commandments in government-owned buildings.
___The House added the Ten Commandments provision and three other religion riders to the Consequences for Juvenile Offenders Act, which was approved on a 287-139 vote.
___House leaders pushed the act as an attempt to address cultural, moral and spiritual issues in response to recent school shootings.
___It would authorize $1.5 billion in grants to states and local governments to curb juvenile crime.
___The Ten Commandments amendment, sponsored by Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., recognizes states' authority to display the Ten Commandments on government-owned or -administered property.
___It passed the House 248 to 180.
___Forty-five Democrats voted for the measure, and 15 Republicans vote against it.
___"Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles," Aderholt said.
___While "simply posting the Ten Commandments will not change the moral character of our nation overnight," he said, "it is one step that states can take to promote morality and work toward an end of children killing children."
___The Aderholt amendment also declares the expression of religious faith by individuals on public property as being protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
___Should the measure pass the Senate, it likely will face a constitutional challenge in light of a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the posting of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky classrooms.
___In other religion-related amendments, House lawmakers voted:
___bluebull 238 to 189 to bar the payment of attorney fees for plaintiffs who successfully challenge school policies that violate church-state separation.
___"Public schools are being intimidated into suppressing religious expression by the threat of costly litigation," said Rep. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., sponsor of the amendment.
___"How can schools take this risk? It is much easier just to tell the students not to pray than to risk spending this amount of money," DeMint said.
___bluebull 300 to 127 to state the House's view that religious activities as part of a memorial service on campus honoring slain students do not violate the First Amendment.
___Sponsored by Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., this amendment says Congress "finds" that religious activities as part of a memorial service on campus honoring slain students do not violate the First Amendment.
___It also requires that in any lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of school memorials or memorial services, each party would pay its own attorney's fees and court costs.
___bluebull 346 to 83 to add a "charitable-choice" provision that would make pervasively sectarian organizations eligible to provide tax-funded social services to juveniles.
___Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., who sponsored the measure, said it would allow faith-based groups to be treated fairly. "They do not have to change their internal operations," he said.
___"They cannot proselytize with any of the money or they would lose the grant."
___Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, opposed the measure, predicting, "Five years from now, we will have the Baptists arguing with the Methodists, with the Catholics, with the Jews, with the Hindus, with the Muslims, over who got their proportional share of the almighty federal dollar."

See related story:


Contents/ Masthead / Why We're Here / Links / Archive / E-mail us/ SUBSCRIBE!