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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Loss of monument is a loss for society

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

The exhausting battle over a Ten Commandments monument in Alabama came to a quiet end Monday when the United States Supreme Court rejected a final appeal on the monument's removal from a government building. Thus ends this chapter in the ongoing battle over the separation of church and state. But it probably won't be the final chapter.

The 5,300-pound monument was ordered removed from an Alabama courthouse nearly three years ago. But Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore declined the order and the battle was under way. In the end, Moore and the monument were both removed. By rejecting an appeal this week, the Supreme Court ended the story. In the meantime, Moore is considering a run for public office so the delicate debate may be around for a while longer.

I remain puzzled on just what problem this monument presents to the public. Surveys generally show overwhelming public support for more inclusion of religion in our daily lives. But the courts have consistently interpreted a strict policy against school prayer, displaying the Ten Commandments and a whole host of other long-held traditions.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, applauded the Supreme Court's decision. His group was one of those who sued in 2001 for the removal of the monument. Lynn said, "It is truly time for him (Judge Moore) to understand that he has lost."

I fear Rev. Lynn grossly misunderstands this issue. It is not Judge Moore who has lost. It's society who has lost. The presence of the Ten Commandments is not some order of compliance that forces all of society to think and believe a certain way. That monument was simply a recognition of a higher power and a public display to promote the ideals laid down on that historic tablet.

No, Rev. Lynn, Judge Moore lost nothing in this case. He was removed from office and held to public ridicule by some. But Judge Moore is indeed the winner. He fought for his beliefs. In the end, rest assured he will be judged by a court higher than the justices seated in this land. And in that court, I suspect, he'll be judged a winner.

In the meantime, we wrongly place our fears in symbols that we should embrace. And we allow a small minority to dictate the path for the large majority. It takes little to see the

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