By Sandhya Bathija
Some people just have to learn everything the hard way.
According to a Louisiana newspaper, the Rapides Parish Police Jury has voted 8-1 to put the Ten Commandments on courtroom walls. (A police jury is what the people in some parts of Louisiana call their county council; its members are elected by the voters.)
The jury approved a motion to display the Decalogue, despite a strong warning from jury legal counsel.
“There have been numerous court opinions that this would be inappropriate to do because of the tradition of church and state,” attorney Tom Wells said. “I know this is important to a lot of people, but my general opinion would be that this is inappropriate legally.”
He, of course, is right.
Many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled the Ten Commandments is a religious text and has no place in public buildings, especially when standing alone without any historical or other documents.
Just two months ago, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a common pleas judge in Ohio to remove a Ten Commandments display from his courtroom, finding that his actions ran afoul of the Constitution and sent an explicit endorsement of religion.
Years ago, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore insisted on defending large granite Commandments monument he placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. A federal court ordered he take it down. Yet he refused to remove the 2.5-ton monument, leading to his removal from the state supreme court in 2003.
You’d think this police jury would catch on – these courthouse Ten Commandment displays didn’t survive judicial scrutiny and neither will the displays in Rapides Parish.
Sadly, I’m not sure these local politicians care.
“I have about eight months left on this jury, and I want to be able to tell my grandkids I took a stand and got the Ten Commandments on the wall of the courthouse,” said Juror Jamie Floyd, who sponsored the motion.
“If that’s all I get done in these four years, that’s enough for me and my family,” he said.
I wonder if Floyd’s grandkids would still be proud if they knew his vote cost the parish thousands of dollars in litigation over a matter that has already been resolved time and time again?
A courtroom is the last place to display a religious text. Our judges are supposed to base their decisions on the Constitution, not the Ten Commandments or any other religious tenets.
I’m counting on the judges in Rapides Parish to know better than this legislative body. Despite the police jury’s decision, each judge has the final say over what is displayed in his or her courtroom.
They’d be wise to follow the law.