By Bob Smietana
The Ten Commandments may be back in Alabama.
That state’s senate passed a bill this week (Feb. 27) calling for a constitutional amendment to allow the commandments to be displayed at schools and government property.
Under the bill, no public funds could be used for such monuments. And the commandments would have to be displayed in a manner that is constitutional.
Most likely, that means they’d be displayed along with other historical or educational items.
The bill also outlines how religious liberty can be practiced in Alabama. It reiterates that residents can worship as they like—and that no one can be compelled to worship or to attend or support a place of worship.
It also describes legal protections for religious beliefs.
“The proposed amendment would also provide that the civil and political rights, privileges, and capacities of no person may be diminished or enlarged on account of his or her religious beliefs,” according to the text of the bill.
State senators have approved similar bills in the past. So far, state representatives have not. The proposed amendment would have to be approved by voters before becoming law.
In the past few decades, courts have ruled that some public displays of the Ten Commandments are constitutional and some are not:
- Displays of the commandments by themselves in McCreary County and Pulaski County, Kentucky, were ruled unconstitutional.
- A display of the commandments with other items such as the Bill of Rights and Mayflower Compact was ruled constitutional.
- In 2003, a federal court ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments display from the Alabama Supreme Court.
- The Oklahoma supreme court ruled a Ten Commandments display—paid for with private funds—at the Capital was unconstitutional. It was moved to property owned by a local nonprofit.
- A Ten Commandments display at the Texas state capital was ruled constitutional.
- Following Texas’ example, lawmakers in Arkansas have installed a similar display. An Arkansas man was arrested in the summer of 2017 after crashing his car into the newly erected monument.
- New research finds the one commandment almost all Americans support
- Americans sure of religious freedom, unsure of extent
- Church signs lead to Supreme Court case
BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.