HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-The Ten Commandments are back in the spotlight in Alabama, as state legislators ponder a bill that would allow the biblical decrees to be publicly displayed on state property one decade after a famous legal fight over a similar issue.
If passed by lawmakers and approved by voters, Senate Bill 40 would allow the Ten Commandments and other historically significant documents with religious undertones to be publicly displayed in courthouses, schools and other state-run facilities. The proposed amendment to the Alabama Constitution recently passed through the State Senate by a vote of 23-1, and now awaits a vote in the House.
The legislation comes ten years after Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from office by a federal court for displaying the Ten Commandments at the State Supreme Court. Voters put Judge Moore back in power last year, but proponents of the bill call the timing strictly a coincidence. Other historically significant documents that mention God and reflect the rule of the law like the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence would also be covered by the amendment, which would still need to be approved by voters in a statewide election.
"It had bipartisan support in the Senate, and I don't see anything that would cause difficulties in the House," said Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison), a supporter of the legislation. "When something might have religious connotations, that doesn't mean that it doesn't have historical connotation and educational value, even if you don't believe what the document says."
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups opposed to the legislation say it's illegal because it violates the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution. But proponents said the Establishment Clause has been misinterpreted and twisted by the groups voicing disapproval.
"I think somebody that would oppose it would have to do some legal gymnastics to find something to oppose it on," said Ball, who believes that passing the bill would cut down on what he calls frivolous lawsuits.
The proposed amendment allows, but does not force, courthouses, schools and other public places to display the Ten Commandments. According to the bill, each individual school board, county commission or other local governing entity would have final authority on what they want to do.