HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT) - The Ten Commandments are back in the spotlight in Alabama, with state lawmakers pondering a bill that would allow the biblical decrees to be displayed on state property.
HB 45, better known as "The Ten Commandments" bill, has already passed through the Alabama House by an overwhelming margin and now awaits a vote in the Senate. Courthouses, schools and other state-owned facilities would be allowed to post the Ten Commandments as long as they're mixed with other historical legal documents like the Magna Carta and Declaration of Independence.
The bill is a proposed constitutional amendment, meaning Alabama voters would have the final say. Proponents of the legislation say the move is a nod to the impact the Ten Commandments has made on America's legal system, and does not violate the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution.
"It shaped our laws, it shaped our history, it's a part of America," said Pastor Wayne Benson of Huntsville, who supports the bill. "So many of our laws are based on the Ten Commandments... the historical value of the Ten Commandments I think is very important."
Opponents of the bill are already threatening legal action. ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson said attorneys for her group will review the legislation before making a final decision.
"I'm just not sure that this bill is necessary," said Watson. "Telling us to only worship one God, the first few commandments have nothing to do with our judicial system."
Legal opinions on the bill vary, but one local legal analyst said he does not believe it violates the Constitution.
"It will certainly be tested, it will go to federal court," said Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel. "A lot of lawyers, probably nine out of 10 lawyers, will say it will be struck down, is dead on arrival. I don't necessarily say that... The Supreme Court could look at this and say 'Look, having the Ten Commandments in schools or buildings along with other important documents in this country, that's not establishing a religion and it's certainly not prohibiting the free exercise thereof. And that's what the First Amendment says."
The bill allows but does not force courthouses, schools and other facilities to display the Ten Commandments.
In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses. But the court did approve a Ten Commandments display that was combined with other historical monuments and markers on the Texas Capitol lawn.