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Should displays of the Ten Commandments be allowed on government property?

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases about public displays of the Ten Commandments. The first case involved a granite monument on the Texas Capitol grounds. The second challenged the exhibition of the commandments in two Kentucky courthouses.

Many people believe that such displays violate the Constitution's First Amendment, which says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The Founding Fathers wanted religious freedom for all Americans, but believed that the government should not support or authorize any particular religion.

While R. Ted Cruz, the Texas Solicitor General, acknowledges that "the Ten Commandments are unquestionably a sacred religious text," he argues that "they equally, unquestionably, have made important historical contributions to the development of Western legal codes and civilization."

What do you think? Should displays of the Ten Commandments be allowed on government property?

YES "The Ten Commandments have ... a secular [nonreligious] significance as a code of law and [are] a well-recognized symbol of law," says U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement. Further, Clement says, banning the displays would constitute "a message of hostility toward religion" that the First Amendment prohibits.

Jeremy Holt thinks that most Americans understand the symbolic and practical value of the commandments. "The Ten Commandments are really good rules for life," says the seventh-grader from Prince of Peace Lutheran School in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. Even though the commandments are not actual law, he adds, "The world would be a better place if people followed them."

NO "The government's symbolic endorsement [support] of religion is most obvious" in the Ten Commandments displays, says Erwin Chemerinsky, a lawyer in the Texas case. Chemerinsky doesn't agree with the "symbol of law" argument. The displays do "promote religion" and are "extremely divisive," he says.

Tiara Stewart believes that judges have the right to take pride in their religious faith. But, adds the seventh-grader at John P. Freeman School in Memphis, Tennessee, if you're a judge, "You have to keep your religion separate from the law."

Religious beliefs should not enter into government proceedings, Tiara says. "There's a certain line you can't cross."

[check] VOTE NOW! Ten Commandments on government property? Vote online at www.scholastic.com/juniorscholastic.
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Title Annotation:DEBATE
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 11, 2005
Words:365
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