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Jewish World Review June 13, 2001 / 23 Sivan 5761

Don Feder

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The ACLU's religion purge is in high gear -- THE American Civil Liberties Union is on a mission -- but not from the Creator. It's goal: to obliterate evidence of America's religious heritage.

Last week, the ACLU filed a suit to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the courthouse lawn in Vincennes, Ind. Such displays are a breach of the mythical wall separating church and state, according to our judicial law-givers.

In May, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a ruling holding a similar monument in Elkhart, Ind., unconstitutional. This statue has stood in front of Elkhart's city hall since 1958, when it was given to the community by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

The ACLU set its sites on the Elkhart tablets when two locals decided they were unable to bear the psychic pain caused by its existence. One confessed that, while he rarely saw it: "I certainly know it's there. It offends me. I (gasp!) think about it."

The civil liberties group has its work cut our for it.

There are literally hundreds of such monuments across the country, most donated by the Eagles shortly after the premier of Cecil B. DeMille's epic. They were intended to emphasize the connection between our legal system and Mosaic law. Contrary to what some may believe, prohibitions against murder and perjury did not flow from the pen of Thomas Jefferson. They started at Sinai, and were transmitted to us via Christianity and English common law.

For the ACLU to be consistent, it must broaden its scope considerably. For roughly the first 170 years of our national existence, the Constitution was correctly understood to create no impediment to public acknowledgment of faith.

In consequence, tokens of insensitivity and exclusion litter the landscape, traumatizing unbelievers and threatening democracy.

Of course, there's "In G-d We Trust" on our currency. (I foresee an ACLU suit against the Treasury.) The slogan also is in the lyrics of our national anthem, the singing of which at public functions clearly expresses a government preference for monotheistic religion, as does the president taking his oath of office on a Bible.

The seat of our national government abounds in malignant minglings of church and state. The Supreme Court, which won't allow Elkhart to have its Decalogue, sits in a chamber decorated with a frieze of Moses carrying the Commandments.

David Barton of WallBuilders, a group dedicated to the rediscovery of our religious tradition, says a guide at the building once told him the prophet is pictured delivering the Bill of Rights. Maybe that's why the justices have such a hard time understanding it; most can't read Hebrew.

The Declaration of Independence (with its multiple references to the Deity) is displayed on public property, at the National Archives building.

In the House of Representatives, "In G-d We Trust" is engraved in the Speaker's rostrum. Moses is depicted in the House, as well.

Barton notes that fully 25 percent of the Capitol's statuary has a religious message, including a statue of Father Junipero Serra (called the Apostle of California) holding a cross and Marcus Witman, another missionary who helped open the Northwest to settlement, carrying a Bible.

The Rotunda has 14 foot by 20 foot paintings of the baptism of Pocahontas, the Pilgrims at prayer, and Christopher Columbus in the new world holding a cross and praying with his crew. Across from the Rotunda, the Congressional Chapel (the ACLU must shudder at the thought of goings on there) has a stained glass window showing Washington seeking Divine guidance. Etched into the glass is a line from Psalms 16:1.

At the White House, the mantlepiece in the State Dining Room is engraved with an invocation by John Adams. "I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it." Thus all three branches of government are tainted by religion.

The ACLU's suit against the Vincennes' Ten Commandments was filed in Terre Haute, Ind. On Monday, Timothy McVeigh -- an agnostic who believed he was a law unto himself -- was executed there.

The mass murderer didn't get it. Neither does the ACLU. Are we really better off in a nation where the Ten Commandments are treated as a threat to orderly government, instead of its foundation?

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate