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Ten Commandment Rulings
June 27, 2005 2:51PM EST


On Monday, June 27, 2005 in Washington, DC, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the Supreme Court to hear the rulings of the Supreme Court regarding whether the Ten Commandments can be put on display inside American public buildings. Two cases were considered Ė McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky and Van orden v. Perry (Texas). I participated in the rallies and press conferences on the steps of the Supreme Court while waiting for the decisions. Supporters filled the sidewalk and surrounded a replica of the Ten Commandments. Protestersí signs read "Keep State & Church Separate" and "One Nation under the Constitution."

Christian leaders and supporters surrounded the replica of the Ten Commandments as Rev. Rob Schenck and I read from the Bible, Exodus 20:2-17. Over a hundred people were waiting in line to go inside the courthouse to listen to the verdict. Most of the crowd was turned away and never entered. Surrounded by supporters and protestors, I spoke to reporters outside the Supreme Court before and after the announcements of the ruling on the Ten Commandments on government property and displays in courthouses. With other staff from RFC, I waited for the phone calls from contacts inside the courthouse to let us know the decisions as they were being announced. Christian leaders and supporters gathered around the display of the Ten Commandments to pray while the decision was taking place inside the building. Several colleagues and myself kneeled and joined in prayer in front of the Supreme Court and prayed for justice to be done. Sounds of bull horns and yelling from protestors attempted to drown out the verbal prayers. The atmosphere was tense waiting for the decisions to be read.

The first opinion announced was regarding the Van Orden v. Perry (Texas) case. The six foot display of the Ten Commandments sits outside on the State Capitol grounds. The opinion issued upheld the display stating that the monument is one of 17 historical displays and was determined to be a legitimate tribute to the nationís legal and religious history. The judges issued a plurality opinion because the majority could not agree on whether the monument may stay. The Court issued a 4-1-4 vote with no clear rule on the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments.

The second ruling came about an hour later. The court ruling in McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky was a vote of 5-4. The 5-4 vote was authored by Justice Souter and joined by Justices OíConnor, Stephens, Ginsburg and Breyer. Justice Scalia was joined by Justices Thomas, Rehnquist and Kennedy dissent. This case involved a Ten Commandments document hung among an array of documents. The courtís ruling stated that the Ten Commandments displays violated the doctrine of separation of church & state and that the Kentucky courthouse went too far in endorsing religion with the framed copies. The justices voting on the prevailing side use the example of their replica of the Ten Commandments and said if it was portrayed neutrally in order to honor the nationís legal history it would be acceptable. Above where the Chief Justice sits in the US Supreme Court room is a depiction of Moses seated holding the Ten Commandments. This opinion acknowledges that the display can be constitutional in one county but unconstitutional in another. The disappointing decision banned some displays of the Ten Commandments and announced that similar displays would be judged case-by-case in the future.

These rulings were the Courtís first major ruling on the Ten Commandments since 1980 when justices barred displays in public schools. But this verdict is left unclear, and left the high court unsettled on the role of religion in American society.

I spoke to the media after the announcements. The following is my statement on behalf of the Religious Freedom Coalition.

"All Liberty, known more popularly as freedom today, is born in the heart of God. The forces of evil are always ready to steal our liberty and our hope away from us. In America the liberty we have was handed down to us by men of good character who did indeed believe the Bible was the supreme guide, and this America must never forget. The concept of religious freedom was important to the Founders because they did indeed believe that it was the "first liberty" and without it no freedom, no liberty could exist at all. If you do not have religious freedom, then you do not have freedom of assembly, freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Where there is religious freedom there is genuine freedom."

As speakers of the opposing groups pushed their way into the media spotlight, I continued with other colleagues to rally in support of the Ten Commandments by again reading from the Bible and praying for our country. I participated in Radio and media interviews in support of displaying the Ten Commandments and to show that we will not give up our rights. We need to bring the Word of God back to our nationís culture and to remind people that there is a higher moral standard by which things are judged.

I was quoted and photographed in the Free lance Star, New York Times, USA Today as well as NBC, ABC, CBS television news stations. Religious Freedom shall prevail.

Reported by Peggy Birchfield, Executive Director of Religious Freedom Coalition

*Photos of Ten Commandments Rally and Press Conference taken by Jon Sowers of RFC.



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