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Tennessee Battles over Posting Ten Commandments

If America is in a moral sewer, then posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings is the way out and the way back to God, according to some Tennesseans.

“Our nation is in the sewer and the way you get out of the sewer is to begin with the definition of sin so that the people know what it is,” June Griffith, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, told Associated Press.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
“They don’t know what sin is now,” she said. “The Bible gives you the definition of sin. Thou shalt not steal, that piques your conscious.”
According to the Tennessean, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Griffith has driven more than 7,000 miles across the state pursuing her goal of having every county commission support the posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
“It’s time for Christians to stop letting God be taken out of our daily public life,” she said.
Joining Griffith’s campaign is Charles Wysong, the president of Ten Commandments-Tennessee.
Wysong became well-known for his involvement with the Nuremberg Files, a Web site with wanted posters for abortion providers.
“This isn’t my idea. God commanded us to put the Ten Commandments up in our homes, our churches, everywhere,” Wysong told Memphis’ Commercial Appeal. “God has stirred a fight in Tennessee.”
Tennessee is now locked in a heated conflict that includes a federal judge, the state attorney general, county commissioners and clergy.
During a trial in federal court earlier this week in Chattanooga, Hamilton County attorneys argued that the commissioner’s motive for placing a plaque of the Ten Commandments in three county buildings was not religious, according to the Tennessean.
One county attorney said the plaques did not endorse any religion and only encouraged citizens to obey civil law.
The plaintiffs’ attorney said the intent of posting the Commandments was religious and the version posted was from the Protestant version of the Bible.
After three hours of testimony, U.S. District Court Judge R. Allan Edgar said he would take the matter under advisement, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
Earlier in April, the state attorney general issued an advisory opinion that posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings was unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A few days later, the Bedford County commissioners approved the posting of the Commandments in public buildings. Rutherford County hung them on the courthouse wall along side other historic documents.
“Our country was founded on these principles and the Christian belief,” one Rutherford County commissioner told the Tennessean.
More than half of Tennessee’s counties have passed resolutions supporting the posting of the Commandments. Over 30 counties have posted them.
One exception is Davidson County, where Nashville is located.
The lead sponsor there argued that posting the Ten Commandments would save the nation, according to the Tennessean.
“If we don’t get God back in our nation we’re going to lose our nation,” he said. “We’re going down real quick.”
Some 60 Nashville-area religious leaders opposed the display of the Commandments in public buildings. In a public statement, they said hanging the Commandments was “unwise, insensitive and at odds with this country’s fundamental commitment to freedom of religion.”
The Davidson County commissioners eventually tabled a resolution to support the right to post the Ten Commandments.
A University of Tennessee political science professor told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that local politicians benefit from supporting the hanging of the Ten Commandments.
“It’s patently obvious. Clearly there is political gain in being on this side of this issue in the buckle of the Bible Belt,” said Robert Swansbrough. “Even if they lose, they are seen as on the side of right.”
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