Ga. Bill Would Allow Ten Commandments in All Gov't Buildings

As displays of the Ten Commandments across the country garner controversy and legal action, one state legislature is considering expanding the range of public buildings that can display them.

House Bill 766, which would allow for certain displays of the Decalogue to be made in all public buildings, is making its way through the General Assembly of Georgia, having been passed unanimously by the House.

"Legislators think it will play well with voters if they pass a bill that celebrates the Ten Commandments. It's a cynical exploitation of faith for political ends," said Joe Conn, spokesman for the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, in an interview with The Christian Post.

"Georgia has seen repeated battles over church-state issues. I wish elected officials there would study their constitutional history and oppose government intervention in our personal religious lives."

Current Georgia law allows for Ten Commandments displays to be erected in courthouses and other judicial buildings, provided they have other historical documents posted with them. HB 766 would allow these displays including the Decalogue in other public buildings like schools.

According to the proposed legislation, the bill would "to extend the locations in which such displays may appear; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes."

This would amend Article 3 of Chapter 13 of Title 45 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to the Division of Archives and History, which was passed amid a lawsuit regarding a Barrows County Decalogue display.

"It is particularly disappointing that legislators are encouraging display of the Ten Commandments in public schools. Public schools serve children from many faiths as well as those who follow no spiritual path at all," said Conn.

"The Supreme Court has barred schools from promoting religion, including devotional displays of the Ten Commandments. If school officials take legislators' advice on this, they could easily wind up in court."

Georgia Representative Thomas Benton, the chief sponsor of HB 766, told local media that he does not believe there will be legal trouble with his bill.

"The wording that was done is straight from the attorney general's office," said Benton, adding that "there has not been a single lawsuit since we passed the original thing in 2006."

In late February, HB 766 was unanimously passed by the Georgia House. In addition to Benton, other sponsors of the bill included Representatives Jon G. Burns and Terry England.

The other historical documents that Georgia law says must be with any Decalogue display 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.

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