Marriage is love.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ruth Holladay: Commandments issue is a monumental mess

Indianapolis Star 6/30/05

With a wave of Ten Commandments frenzy sweeping the nation in the 1950s, Indianapolis dedicated its tablets at the Statehouse lawn on Oct. 25, 1958. The 600-pound monument -- destined to become a 600-pound gorilla -- was a gift from the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The national service organization, inspired by the 1956 movie "The Ten Commandments" was leading a campaign to erect tablets all over the country. In old-fashioned Hollywood hype, the movie's director Cecil B. DeMille put his heft behind the project. The result, over time, was the placement of more than 200 Ten Commandments tablets in parks, at schools and in front of public buildings all over the U.S.

For this shameless bit of hucksterism, we are still paying a price. The Supreme Court's ruling Monday promises no relief. Like Moses and the Hebrews forced to wander 40 years in the wilderness, we remain lost.


The Statehouse has not had a Ten Commandments display since 1991, when the 1958 monument was removed after being repeatedly vandalized and broken. However, a new, much heavier monument was constructed with private funds and today sits in front of a Subway restaurant in Bedford. Gov. Mitch Daniels was quick to say Tuesday he would welcome it to the Statehouse. He'll likely have to get it by the courts and the Indiana Civil Liberties Union to get the job done, since a federal judge ruled in 2000 that the display could not be placed on the Statehouse lawn. A reasonable person, the judge said, would consider it an endorsement of religion.

Many agree that the religion being endorsed is Christianity with a conservative bent because Christian conservatives tend to be the biggest boosters of the displays. Jews and other minority faiths oppose them as a threat to the separation of church and state. The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops has not taken a stand.

Still, the vast majority of Americans, when polled, support such displays. One has to wonder if they understand the issue. Or are they just stuck in 1950s Hollywood?