Alabama House panel backs Ten Commandments amendment
By The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. A group trying to get the Ten Commandments posted in Alabama's public schools scored a victory at the Legislature this week and took another step toward an anticipated court fight.
The House Elections Committee voted without dissent for a proposed state constitutional amendment allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed on state property, including in schools.
Similar legislation died in the committee last year after the committee chairman, state Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, complained that it was unconstitutional.
Guin voted for the bill on Jan. 23, although he said his view hasn't changed.
"I still think this bill is unconstitutional, but the members of the Legislature want an opportunity to vote on it, and I'm not going to stand in the way of the members voting," Guin said.
Dean Young, executive director of the Christian Family Association, has been trying to pass the constitutional amendment for two years. He credited growing public support and the upcoming legislative election with Guin's vote.
"It looks like he finally got the message that if he stands in the way, he will be crushed politically," Young said.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley, now goes to the House for consideration. An identical bill, sponsored by state Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville, is awaiting a vote in the Senate. If one of the bills makes it through the Legislature, then it would have to be approved by Alabama voters in a statewide referendum before taking effect.
Young maintains that posting the Ten Commandments in school will help cut down on school violence.
Young and Guin agree that a state constitutional amendment would be challenged in court, especially since Chief Justice Roy Moore is being sued over his display of a Ten Commandments monument in the State Judicial Building.
In its 1980 decision Stone v. Graham, the U.S. Supreme Court split 5-4 in disallowing displays of the Ten Commandments in public school courtrooms in Kentucky.
Young said the court has changed since then. "The Supreme Court is much more conservative now," he said.
Guin, a lawyer, said the best way to get the Ten Commandments in public schools is either to amend the U.S. Constitution or put the Ten Commandments in a historical display with other documents related to public laws.
When the state is sued over legislation, the taxpayers normally have to pay the costs of defending the state. Young, who was a fund-raiser for Moore's campaign in 2000, said he would be glad to raise money to pay the state's legal costs.
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