The Ten Commandments Controversy in Alabama : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

The recent "controversy" surrounding the Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice refusal to remove the Ten Commandments monument is noteworthy because of the conspicuous silence by many mainstream black denominations. I don't think there has been any planned protests by those modern day apostles of social justice, Revs. Jackson and Sharpton. I attended the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington last week and not one speaker on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. even gave indirect reference to this topic. I can't recall a policy position paper presented by our AME Bishops regarding the theological merits or demerits about this issue. I find it rather ironic for the AMEC to be mute on this issue given the liturgical significance we place on The Decalouge in our Order of Worship. Why is it OK for the Ten Commandments to be displayed in the hallowed halls of the US Supreme Court but anathema for a similar shrine to be on display in the Alabama Supreme Court? While I agree with the Federal Appeals Court's mandate to have the monument removed it does nonetheless raise some important questions about the true meaning of The Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. Sometimes I get the impresssion that we are only energized about Constitutional matters when the subject matter is narrowly defined along the line of racial inequality. QED

-- Anonymous, September 02, 2003


I tend to agree with the opinion of the pastor of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, who believes that a monument to the Ten Commandments is useless unless they are etched in the hearts of those who believe in them. Frankly, I think the ruckus over the monument borders on idolatry, since many of those who did the woo- woo shebang over the ten commandments would just as easily cut off assistance to impoverished families, defend those who seek to end affirmative action, and would readily rally round the battle flag. If I was a clergy man in Alabama I would not want to stand with people like these over a momument that they only worship but do not respect.

-- Anonymous, September 02, 2003

I don't agree with everything the supporters of the monument stand for but I do think the federal judge is interpreting the constitutions "establishment clause" in a way that was never intended by the writers of the document. Given the role that religion played in the founding of this country and the establishment of its judicial code. Now it's as though religion and religious expression is becoming anathama in public life. That is until the next 911. After 911 they were praying in the White House, the Capital, and other public venues. How soon we forget when things return to "normal". It was wrong for the Chief Justice not to obey the federal court. We have to continue to have the rule of law for a civil society.

As for Al and Jesse they couldn't care less about religious issues. They're to busy being the spokes persons for African Americans and furthering their own agendas.

-- Anonymous, September 03, 2003

OK, Harold suppose for the sake of argument the icon in question were the AME symbols of the cross and anvil. Let's further assume that a particular judge with deep ties and convictions to the AMEC wanted it on display in the courthouse vestibule as a testament to the liberating work of Richard Allen in helping to improve the quality of life for black Americans in 18th and 19th century America. Would you oppose such a display? Does the display of an icon, Ten Commandments, Cross/Anvil, etc. necessarily suggest endorsement of a particular religion? Religion has played a key role in the development of the core values which define this country. Denial of such evidence does not change the outcome. If folks respect the monument and not worship it, as you correctly note, that would suffice for the icon NOT being an endorsement. As usual your critical observations are always valuable in understanding issues of this type. QED

-- Anonymous, September 03, 2003

Thank you Bill for the compliment. You are correct in stating that many Christians have turned the 10 Commandments into an icon and perhaps have invalidated the momument's religious significance. However, if I am Muslim, Hindu, or practicing any other religious belief allowable in this country and I hear a religious judge, strongly support a Judeo/Christian symbol of faith, be it the 10 Commandments,the Cross, and yes even the cross/anvil of the AMEC, then I may believe that I will not be dealt with fairly. In matters like these freedom loving people must try to see an issue from the viewpoint of the outsider. Take it a little further suppose for a moment that I am gay, and I know that the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination, if I see religious icons, whether or not the proponents of such icons have their significance ingrained upon their hearts, I am not going to feel that I can find justice in that place because I am already not acceptable to the religious.

As far as Richard Allen goes, if there are monuments in that rotunda that celebrate freedom fighters, then by all means let the first bishop have his due. If the other freedom fighters do not have their weapontry then the good bishop must not either.

-- Anonymous, September 05, 2003

I have two problems with the Ten Commandments monument. One is that it appears to me that the judge involved is trying to make a political issue out of a faith statement. I believe that this is tantamount to taking the Name of YHWH in vain.

The second is a faith issue. We believe in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus the Messiah, and not by works under the Law. In the AME order of worship we include the Summary of the Law (Torah) after the Decalogue to demonstrate this. The key Commandment is the First, You shall have no gods before Me. This is not a law as we normally consider a law, because it cannot be enforced by the state or the Church.

Under the Old Testament which the 10 Commanments represent there is not separation of Churchn and State. In the New Testament there is because we are not under the Law.

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

Howdy, Howdy Rev. Sawtelle -

For those who don't know, Parson Sawtelle is a Presiding Elder, in good standing I might add, in the New England Conference. Let me be the first to welcome our Massachusettes brother to the AME Today BB since he was helpful to me when I taught a class on 'Leading the Church School in the 21st Century' at the Christian Ed Quardrennial last year. Now as we AMEs are fond of saying "protocol having been established" ( a curious religious segue) let me proceed to decompose the fine PE's comments.

Elder Sawtelle opines -

"I have two problems with the Ten Commandments monument. One is that it appears to me that the judge involved is trying to make a political issue out of a faith statement. I believe that this is tantamount to taking the Name of YHWH in vain." This point raises the idolatry element previously echoed by our resident iconoclast, Harold Gibson. Now the intriguing contribution of Roger's reflections is captured in that last phrase concerning the judge's intention (making a political issue out of a faith statement). If we accept the Sawtelle Standard does this not lead us down a tricky path? The AME Church consistently emphasizes the role of liberation theology and a church dedicated to the principles of social responsibility. If we reject a judge's convictions about displaying a monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds that such action violates our divine duty per Commandment #1, how can we then justify our ecclesiastical energies when we seek to abolish the death penalty or vocieforously oppose President Bush's decision to overthrow the old Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Are our actions any different (making a political statement out of a religious statement) from that of Judge Roy Moore?

The noble principle of civil disobedience, as articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., warrants non-compliance with "immoral" civl laws. As a church we don't dispute civil disobedience in matters of civil rights agitation yet such actions clearly blur the distinction between church and state. While I do believe that the decision to remove the icon was the correct option I remain concerned about the open assualt on religious expression in public venues. Stephen Carter, William Crownwell Professor of Law @ Yale University, provides an excellent analysis about this latter point in a book he wrote 3-5 years ago in his study about law and faith. QED

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2003

Bill Dickens: I am an eight grader at West Banbridge Middle School. I am writing a paper about the controversy and need more information about the subject. PLease relpy to this as soon as possilbe or e-mail the information to Thank you for you time. -Jessica Andrews

-- Anonymous, November 17, 2003

Thanks again Bro. Dickens I have never been called an iconoclast before. At first I thought you might be wrong to call that but upon further reflection, in some ways especially in discarding outdated and outmoded traditions, i.e. those ugly stewardess caps, church nurses, protocol in worship services and religious symbols in secular places I guess you are absolutely correct. Now since we agree let me go a step further, the ten commandments only make since in the state house if they represented a lifestyle that has been and will be in practice. Alabama cannot claim a governmental lifestyle that has been reflective of the commandments. I would talk about the stars and bars but that topic makes me puke.

-- Anonymous, November 23, 2003

The irony is that the granite statue is itself a graven image.

-- Anonymous, December 23, 2003

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