(Photo: Ga. House of Representatives)
A bill that would allow displays including the Ten Commandments in all public buildings has passed in the Georgia Legislature and awaits the signature of the governor.
HB 766 was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives earlier this month and passed with 41 yeas to 9 nays in the State Senate on Thursday.
State Representative Tommy Benton of District 31 was the chief sponsor of the bill. Benton told The Christian Post that the bill passed without any alteration.
"The legislation passed both Houses in the same form. No changes," said Benton. "I cannot speak for the governor but it is my hope he will sign the legislation."
Georgia law allows for Ten Commandments displays to be erected in courthouses and other judicial buildings, provided the Decalogue is displayed with other historical documents. HB 766 allows these displays in other public buildings like schools.
According to the proposed legislation, HB 766 extends "the locations in which such displays may appear; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes."
Maggie Garrett, legislative director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told CP that the bill was "more egregious" than the law presently on the books.
"At a time when the state and local governments of Georgia are slashing their budgets and having difficulty finding the funds for basic and necessary services, they should not be using taxpayer money to fund Ten Commandments displays," said Garrett.
"The courts … have already held that 10 Commandments displays in public schools raise even more heightened constitutional concerns than in other buildings because children are young, impressionable, and a captive audience."
In regards to claims of church and state violation, Rep. Benton told CP that there is nothing about HB 766 that mandates the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
"The legislation was passed to allow for the display in the State Capitol. If any other group wants to place the display that will be up to them," said Benton.
"The wording in the bill was at the recommendation of the Georgia Attorney General. I would remind people that the Ten Commandments are only one of nine items in the display."
In addition to Benton, Representatives Terry England (District 108), Jon Burns (District 157), John Meadows (District 5), Matt Ramsey (District 72) and Tom McCall (District 30) co-sponsored.
The other eight historical documents put with the Decalogue are the Mayflower Compact, the Georgia Constitution's preamble, the United States Bill of Rights, the "Star Spangled Banner," a description of "Lady Justice," the Magna Carta, the National Motto, and the Declaration of Independence.
Correction: Sunday, April 1, 2012
An article on Friday, March 30, 2012 about a bill that would allow Ten Commandment displays in Georgia's public buildings incorrectly identified Maggie Garrett as the legislative director for the Georgia chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Garrett is the legislative director for Americans United, not just for the state of Georgia.