By JASON BURGESS and MANDY REDD
Utah delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives voted last week for an amendment allowing the Ten Commandments to be posted in public places, including schools.
The amendment is part of a package of legislation aimed at controlling violence in school. The amendment passed the House with little debate, but the American Civil Liberties Union says the amendment is unconstitutional and far from becoming law.
Representatives Chris Cannon, R-Utah, Merrill Cook, R-Utah, and Jim Hansen, R-Utah, say posting the Ten Commandments could help children become better citizens and lead moral lives.
Jeremy Kidd, legislative assistant for Rep. Hansen, said it is not an issue of religion but a way to teach “core American values.”
“We’ve gone too far, taking God out of public schools. We hide behind the separation of church and state when we are trying to promote the values that teach honesty and good character,” said Rusty Payne, communications secretary for Rep. Cannon.
While Utah’s political leaders hope the amendment passes the Senate, civil libertarians believe the amendment would be a violation of the First Amendment, which segregates church and state.
Carol Gnade, executive director of the Utah chapter of the ACLU, said the proposed amendment would be a violation of the first amendment.
“Essentially, having government endorse this diminishes other religions. It is better to keep government away from religion,” Gnade said.
Gnade said the best place to post the Ten Commandments would be in a church. She expects the issue to be challenged in the Senate before it is implemented.
Patti Harrington, assistant superintendent for the Provo City School District, said the district supports the first amendment separating church and state, but strongly agrees that values and morality should be discussed in public life.
“If the Ten Commandments are posted, even if not directly taught, they will have a (good) effect. That which is repeated becomes you,” Harrington said.
Provo schools will wait for the federal ruling to be interpreted on the state level before they take action.
Harrington said the first schools to post the Ten Commandments will likely have to face lawsuits from the opposition.
Those in support of the amendment say posting the Commandments is not a violation of church and state, and the good outweighs the issues of constitutionality.
“The moral benefits of the Ten Commandments go far beyond the religious boundaries,” said Andrew Nannis, press representative for Rep. Cook.