Kentucky Ten Commandments resolution awaits governor’s signature

Thursday, March 30, 2000

Copy of Ten Com...
Copy of Ten Commandments hangs near entrance to every classroom at Perry County Central High School in Hazard, Ky., as shown on Feb. 16.

The Kentucky General Assembly has approved a joint resolution that would require public schools to include lessons on Christian influences on America and mandate that a large Ten Commandments monument be placed on Capitol grounds.

Last week, the state House approved Senate Joint Resolution 57 with some changes. The changes were overwhelmingly approved yesterday by the state Senate.

The resolution now goes to Gov. Paul E. Patton for his signature or veto. Mark Pfeiffer, Patton’s press secretary, said the governor had 10 days to decide.

“It’s in the review process,” Pfeiffer said. “But generally when the General Assembly supports such a measure with a strong majority, as was the case here, the governor accepts the measure as public policy.” Pfeiffer said he could not comment on the merits of the measure while it was under the governor’s review.

The four-page resolution claims that public schools have too often muzzled the teaching of Judeo-Christian beliefs. The joint resolution introduced in late January by Republican state Sen. Albert Robinson, states that Kentucky education officials must “address the suppression and censorship of American history regarding Judeo-Christianity’s influence on Colonial America and on the development of American law and civil government by encouraging teachers and school administrators to post and teach from historic displays of original documents which reflect this history and which may also include the Ten Commandments as the rule of colonial courts and precedent legal code upon which the civil government and laws of the Commonwealth and the Republic were founded.”

The resolution concludes by requiring the state Department of Education to allow the Ten Commandments to “be read, taught from, and prominently displayed in the entry hall or foyer of Kentucky public schools as well as classrooms.”

The Senate Joint Resolution originally referred only to Christianity’s influence on America. Before being sent to the state House, it was amended to be more inclusive, with the reference to “Judeo-Christianity.”

The resolution was also amended to require that the preamble to Kentucky’s Constitution be posted in all public school classrooms. Kentucky’s preamble states, “We, the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy, and invoking the continuance of these blessings, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

Finally, the House added to the resolution a requirement that a Ten Commandments monument be placed on Capitol grounds.

Jeff Vessels, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said that if the resolution became law, it would likely spark lawsuits throughout the state.

“Legislators in Frankfort do not have to worry about court costs,” Vessels said. “But they are putting local school boards in the position of defending their actions with costly litigation.”

As for the mandatory monument, Vessels said, “Our reading of the bill and court cases throughout the country suggests that undoubtedly [it] would entangle government with religion, which is contrary to the First Amendment.

“Government is prohibited from promoting religion and the clear purpose of the bill, and specifically the call for placing the monument on capitol grounds, is to promote religion,” he said.

Robinson, however, lauded the Assembly for approving his resolution.

“God wants the Ten Commandments,” the senator said in a statement. “That’s where we came from.”

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a Kentucky law that mandated the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools. The court in Stone v. Graham said the Kentucky law violated the separation of church and state.