Alabama Supreme Court Ten Commandments display ruled unconstitutional
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument an unconstitutional state establishment of religion.

"If we adopted his position, the chief justice would be free to adorn the walls of the Alabama Supreme Court's courtroom with sectarian religious murals and have decidedly religious quotations painted above the bench," a three-judge panel from the court wrote.

Every government building could be topped with a cross, or a menorah, or a statue of Buddha, depending upon the views of the officials with authority over the premises. A crèche could occupy the place of honor in the lobby or rotunda of every municipal, county, state, and federal building. Proselytizing religious messages could be played over the public address system in every government building at the whim of the official in charge of the premises. However appealing those prospects may be to some, the position Chief Justice Moore takes is foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent.

The court also rejected Moore's argument that he is answerable only to the Constitution, not "to a higher judicial authority in the performance of his duties as administrative head of the state judicial system." "There is nothing in law or logic to support his theory," the court said, comparing him to segregation-era Southern governors George C. Wallace and Ross Barnett. "Any notion of high government officials being above the law did not save those governors from having to obey federal court orders, and it will not save this chief justice from having to comply with the court order in this case."

Last week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Ten Commandments plaque in a Pennsylvania courthouse did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

"We cannot ignore the inherently religious message of the Ten Commandments," Judge Edward R. Becker wrote in that decision. "However, we do not believe … that there can never be a secular purpose for posting the Ten Commandments, or that the Ten Commandments are so overwhelmingly religious in nature that they will always be seen only as an endorsement of religion."

The 11th Circuit took note of that decision, saying the two rulings were consistent:

That case is readily distinguishable from this one because the plaque had been there more than eight decades and no government entity or official has done anything in modern times to highlight or celebrate its existence, or even to maintain it; the plaque is not located in a prominent place but instead is away from the main entrance of the courthouse near a permanently closed door where visitors have no reason to go; and the text of the plaque is not visible to passersby on the sidewalk, who can see only the title "The Commandments." As the Third Circuit noted … "a new display of the Ten Commandments is much more likely to be perceived as an endorsement of religion" by the government than one in which there is a legitimate "preservationist perspective."
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Moore's information officer says the Alabama chief justice will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. "This case is far from over," he said. "What the chief justice has done is certainly constitutional historically."

An aide to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley told The Birmingham News that Riley "is very disappointed" by the decision.

So far, the only comments Weblog was able to find on the case is a New York Times editorial. "Once [the Ten Commandments display] is gone, Alabama voters must find a way to remove Mr. Moore," the paper says. "Mr. Moore's religious grandstanding, and his disregard for the United States Constitution and federal sovereignty, would be offensive in any state official. But they are utterly unacceptable for the highest judicial officer in a state."

Moore is scheduled to hold a press conference on the ruling this morning.

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Bush again pushes vouchers:

Sexual ethics:

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  • ACLU files suit over city parade | Protests over exclusion of gays threaten the event, a group says (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

  • Also: ACLU sues parade over exclusion of gays (Associated Press)

  • Scriptures are clear on sexual matters | Trying to make God's word "fit the times" only robs it of meaning and guidance (Peter Jensen, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • The Bible and the body: mixed messages | Christianity has given women mixed messages about their bodies for centuries, according to Mary LaBarre, a visiting professor of theology at the University of Portland (The Oregonian, Portland)

  • Not-so-holy matrimony | Christianity has always had a bleaker view of love—gay or straight—than any other faith (Karen Armstrong, The Guardian, London)

  • Next up, the gay divorcée | Senate majority leader Bill Frist thinks gay marriage is unholy. He also used to trap and dissect stray kittens (Maureen Dowd, The New York Times)

Same-sex marriage:

  • White House avoids stand on gay marriage measure | Two days after the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, embraced a constitutional amendment that would effectively ban gay marriage, the White House declined to endorse it (The New York Times)

  • Congresswoman leads fight on gay marriage | While gays claim victory with a Supreme Court decision knocking down a ban on sodomy, freshman Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave insists the real battle is over the right of homosexuals to marry. And she is leading a charge to make sure that doesn't happen. (Associated Press)

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Anglican rift over gay bishop:

  • A house divided | The dispute over a gay priest's appointment as bishop threatens to tear the Anglican Church apart (Time Europe)

  • Also: Gay bishop appointment splits Anglican Church (The Washington Post)

  • Bishop claims Jesus wouldn't care about gay clergy | The senior clergyman who nominated a gay priest as Bishop of Reading has claimed there is biblical authority for his decision (The Times, London)

  • Kenyan Anglicans oppose consecration of gay bishop | The Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) will not "recognize and support" the plans by parent church in England to consecrate a 50-year-old homosexual as a bishop even if it means losing support from Canterbury (East African Standard, Nairobi)

  • Also: Kenyan church rejects gay bishop (BBC)

  • Queen is 'deeply concerned' over gay bishop rift | The Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, has been dismayed at the extent to which the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John—which she routinely approved earlier this month—has divided senior Anglicans (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Not amused | The various factions so passionately involved in this argument might do better to pause and consider its damaging effect on the Church they profess to love (Editorial, The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Bigotry and the bishops | The fact should be proclaimed from the rooftops that the church in this country is the last bastion of legalized homophobia (Richard Holloway, The Guardian, London)

Church life:

  • On God, with roller coasters nearby | The perfect marriage between a congregation and its pastor is perhaps no less rare than that between two people, but that is what happened at Knott's Berry Farm's Church of Reflection, tucked in a leafy enclave of Ghost Town (The New York Times)

  • N. Korea okays church for Russian Orthodox | "It was Kim Jong Il's idea," says church official (Los Angeles Times)

  • Exurbia and God: Megachurches in New Jersey | Megachurches are buying unlikely places like large food stores, shopping centers, armories and, in the case of Faithful Central Bible Church in Los Angeles, the former Great Western Forum where the Lakers and the Kings basketball teams played until 1999 (The New York Times)

  • Congregation parts company with mainline Presbyterians | Rivermont Presbyterian Church will leave the PCUSA for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (The Roanoke Times, Va.)

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  • Praising God's name with dance, music, drama | Conference unites worldwide Christian fellowship and celebrates creative worship arts (The Dallas Morning News)

  • God's word, echoing in English | Attendance at many Pentecostal churches in New York City is dropping, church officials say, as more young people insist on speaking English and avoid attending Spanish services (The New York Times)

  • Reviving John Wesley's ways | As membership drops in many mainline Protestant denominations, the United Methodists are again following the crowds to preach about Jesus (Ann Stifter, Savannah Morning News)

  • Does father really know best? | The faithful elevate clergy, and clergy come to expect it (Susan Hogan-Albach, The Dallas Morning News)

  • Aisles apart | But churches trying to change segregated Sundays (Times Daily, Gadsden, Ala.)

  • Harvest Fellowship parts ways with pastor | Peter Spencer steps down from 3,000-member church he founded, saying he suffered from diabetes and an enlarged heart, and didn't want to die in the pulpit as his father had. But some church members say he left over "sin." (San Antonio Express-News)

  • Time takes its toll on California missions | Up and down the California coast, most of the state's 21 missions are under attack by termites, wood beetles, and the elements (The Boston Globe\)

Life ethics:

  • Court won't hear antiabortion activists' appeal | The Supreme Court yesterday turned back an appeal from antiabortion protesters facing a multimillion-dollar judgment for targeting clinic doctors with "wanted" posters (The Washington Post)

  • Prolife women shift to majority | Fifty-one percent of women surveyed by the Center for the Advancement of Women said the government should prohibit abortion or limit it to extreme cases, such as rape, incest, or life-threatening complications (The Washington Times)

  • NEA resolution faces a challenge | A group of prolife delegates to the National Education Association's annual convention dominated a hearing yesterday on resolutions with appeals for the country's leading teachers union to stop advocating abortions for teenage students (The Washington Times)

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  • Restricting abortion in Russia | Access to low-cost, safe abortions — a primary method of birth control for almost five generations of Russian women — is about to be drastically curtailed by the country's parliament, and many health experts fear it will drive women to unsafe back-street clinics (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

  • Infertile women fight for embryos | Two infertile women who want to use their frozen embryos against the wishes of the fathers asked the High Court yesterday to order that the embryos should not be destroyed (The Daily Telegraph, London)


Aftermath of clergy sex scandals:


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  • Church welcomes more consecrated virgins | A lifetime of church-sanctioned virginity is open to women who are not nuns because of a 1970s papal decree that escaped the notice of even some of the most devout Catholics (The Washington Post)

  • Pope urges place for Christ in EU Constitution | "I wish once more to appeal to those drawing up the future European constitution treaty, so that it will include a reference to the religious and in particular the Christian heritage of Europe," the pope said (Reuters)

  • Pope again reaches out to Orthodox Church | Says his efforts at reconciliation weren't just "ecclesiastic courtesy" but a sign of his profound desire to unite the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches (Associated Press)

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