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Solving the Chief Justice Moore/
Ten Commandments conflict

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Read about the Chief Justice Moore case:
up to 2003-JUL, 2003-AUG, the rest of 2003, 2004 and after

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Were there any peaceful and legal methods of settling this dispute?

At least three existed.

bullet The first would have involved a list of all of the congregations of Abrahamic faiths within, say, a 50 mile radius of the Justice Building in Montgomery AL. Abrahamic faiths are major religions who revere the patriarch Abraham who is described in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). They include, in chronological order of their founding, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i Faith. Included would be congregations from:
bullet The Orthodox, Conservative and Reform traditions of Judaism.
bullet Roman Catholicism.
bullet Conservative, mainline, and liberal Protestant denominations, from the Southern Baptist Convention to the United Church of Christ; from the Jehovah's Witnesses to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
bullet Eastern Orthodoxy.
bullet The Baha'i Faith, etc.

The monument could have be moved among all of the congregations in, say, alphabetic order, on a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual basis. The location in a given month could have be advertised in the local newspapers and registered with the local community information center. This would have given anyone interested the opportunity to view the monument for as long as they wished.

There are a number of benefits arising from this solution:
bullet It would have emphasized the common bond that these diverse faith groups possess.
bullet It would have taught the public about the religious diversity in America.
bullet The monument placement would certainly have been constitutional, since the monument would be located on privately-owned land. 

There was one overwhelming disadvantage to this solution:
bullet The monument would not be displayed in the Rotunda of the Judicial Building. Thus, this solution would probably not have been acceptable many of the protestors.

There was also a potential problem with this solution:
bullet Exodus 20:2-17 contains 19 to 25 separate instructions which various religions have grouped in different combinations into Ten Commandments. The monument is inscribed with the version of the Ten Commandments used by ancient Judaism, Protestant denominations, and Eastern Orthodox churches. The versions used in Judaism are grouped differently. The Roman Catholic Church and some Lutherans use a third grouping. It might create some friction if a Protestant monument were located at on the grounds of an Jewish, Roman Catholic or Lutheran congregation.

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bullet A cultural display could have been created in the rotunda of the Judicial Building. In order to be constitutional, it would have had to include texts and/or artifacts from a variety of sources, both religions and secular. It might include, for example:
bullet The Ten Commandments monument,
bullet Ur-Nammu's Code (the earliest legal code of which we have a copy. It is dated to 2050 BCE.
bullet The Code of Hammurabi. This is the second earliest known legal code, predating the Ten Commandments by almost 500 years. Some believe that the Ten Commandments were based on it.
bullet Other texts of laws from a variety of other religions and cultures,
bullet The Magna Carta,
bullet The Declaration of Independence,
bullet The U.S. Constitution,
bullet A copy of "An act for establishing religious freedom" in Virginia, 1786
bullet The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
bullet A collection of statements of Ethics of Reciprocity from dozens of different religions and secular movements. This might include:
bullet The Golden Rule of Christianity "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew 7:12.  
bullet A Muslim Hadith: "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." 6
bullet An excerpt from the Hebrew Scriptures: .thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.", Leviticus 19:18 
bullet An excerpt from the 21 moral precepts that form the moral code explained in L. Ron Hubbard's booklet "The Way to Happiness." "Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you." (Hubbard is the founder of Scientology)
bullet An excerpt from "Principles of Humanism," by the Humanist Association of Canada: "(11) Humanists affirm that individual and social problems can only be resolved by means of human reason, intelligent effort, critical thinking joined with compassion and a spirit of empathy for all living beings. "
bullet The Humanist Manifesto III,
bullet The Emancipation Proclamation of 1862,
bullet A student behavioral code from a local university, and
bullet Similar civil laws and secular codes of ethics.

There would have been a number of benefits arising from this solution:
bullet A cultural display including the Ten Commandments would probably be constitutional, if a sufficient diversity of items were displayed from both secular and religious sources.
bullet It would demonstrate the diversity of religious, philosophic and legal sources from which Americans derive moral and ethical guidance.

There was one overwhelming disadvantage to this solution:
bullet It would not have had the monument being displayed in isolation. Thus this solution would probably not have been acceptable to many of the protestors.

bullet The simplest solution of all was to take up the offer of a church which is located across the street from the Judicial Building. They have offered some of their land to host the monument. This solution would have offered some of the same benefits, and have the same overwhelming disadvantage as the first alternative, explained above.

When we wrote this essay in 2003, our assessment of the chances of implementing any of these compromises was essentially zero. It turned out to be true.

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Related essays on this site

bullet Developments involving posting of the Ten Commandments:
bullet A detailed analysis of the Ten Commandments
bullet Recent U.S. court rulings on separation of church and state
bullet The Istook Constitutional Amendment: 1995-1996
bullet The Istook Constitutional Amendment: 1997-1999
bullet Prayer in the public schools

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious LawsTen Commandments > here

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Copyright 2003 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-AUG-24
Latest update: 2006-AUG-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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