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Justices to Hear 10 Commandments Cases; JSU Students, Faculty Express Opinions

By Randy Wilson
JSU News Bureau

23 February, 2005 — Jacksonville State University faculty and students expressed mixed opinions about the possible outcomes of the Ten Commandments cases that will go before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2.

The high court may decide whether public display of the Ten Commandments is legal after hearing arguments in two related cases. One case challenges the display of a six-foot monument of the Ten Commandants in Austin, Texas. Another involves two framed copies displayed in two courthouses in Kentucky.

According to survey findings reported on the Gallup Organization's Web site recently, seven out of ten Americans approve of the display of the Ten Commandments in public areas.

The Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization, will present arguments in favor of public displays. “The effects of the ruling will be major and far-reaching,” said Matthew Staver, president of the counsel. "Our heritage and our future are riding on this case.”

Dr. Glen Browder, JSU's Eminent Scholar in American Democracy, said, “There’s always the chance that the Supreme Court will issue a landmark decision regarding the Ten Commandments, but I question whether such will be the case.

Browder, also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., continued, “Whereas the American public expresses pro-Commandments sentiment in most polling, the current court seems pretty split ideologically and very reluctant to take sides in this debate. I think the Court is simply going to sort out a growing pile of church/state cases -- allowing display here, disallowing display there, sending some cases back to lower courts for further review -- in line with prevailing but contentious legal policy on these issues.”

Dr. Lori Owens, assistant professor of political science, said, “I believe issues such as the Ten Commandments, abortion, and obscenity are items that the Supreme Court should allow the states to decide.

“The Court decided to get into the issue of obscenity in 1957 with the case of Roth v. the U.S. and tried to define obscenity and soon discovered that their decision caused more problems than it alleviated. I see the Ten Commandments issue as one the Supreme Court would like to put back to the states.”

Dr. Hope Davis, a retired political science professor and constitutional law expert who continues to teach part time, said, “I believe that this will be a highly important decision if they allow the display of the Ten Commandments to stay.

“If the Supreme Court allows the display of the Ten Commandments, we will probably see an increase in the public display of them in rural areas and a fight on their display in major cities. I think the Court will base its decision on a case involving a nativity scene in Connecticut. There, the court ruled that the nativity scene could not be displayed unless nonreligious displays, like Santa Claus, were included.”

Several JSU students expressed their feelings about the issue.

Jeff Kretzchmar, a JSU student from Jacksonville, said, “I think that the Public display of the Ten Commandments is acceptable if equal space is given to other religions."

Audrey Peppers, a student from Gadsden, said, “I think the public display should not be allowed because it would force people to deal with Christianity whether they want to or not."

Samantha Smith, a student from Albertville, said she feels "it is the right of free people to worship whatever god or goddess they wish as long as the knowledge is not publicly displayed or forced upon them.”

Jamie Simpson, a JSU graduate student, said, “I would hope that the Supreme Court rules that they are not to be displayed because it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children these things; they should not have to be reminded by a slab of granite.”

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