Religious issue more than commandments

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 29, 2003

Tribune editorial staff

In practical terms, the subject of the fervor is a rock -- a big, heavy rock. But this particular 2.6-ton slab of granite has much more meaning than just your average boulder. Yes, this stone inscribed with 10 historic laws has drawn fire from many and drawn respect and honor from many more.

In the land where any respectable piece of chicken is deep-fried and the time of year is always referenced to Crimson Tide football, Americans find themselves staring straight into the face of ironic hypocrisy.

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Alabama's now famous 10 Commandments monument is gaining serious attention from critics and fans alike.

At issue is the placement of the privately funded monument inside a government building.

A federal court forced the removal of the monument earlier this week. The Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice responsible for the placement of the statue has been suspended for refusing to comply with the federal court.

While the latest focus is on the statue itself, the much larger issue is how will America grapple with the legal, ethical and moral issues the hunk of rock now represents?

How ironic it is that we, as a country, distance ourselves from any religious overtones in some avenues, such as the 2.6 ton monument, but at the same time use the same religion as a test of will and allegiance to our government.

Early in their public careers, ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and thousands of others chosen to lead our government once placed a hand on the Bible and swore to uphold their office "so help me God."

It seems like a quintessential case of talking out of both sides of one's mouth. How on earth can we manage to uphold the tenets of the separation of church and state and hold on to our Christian heritage?

Unfortunately, no one has the perfect answer -- at least not that we've seen or read. However, if power of God and the power of humanity can move mountains, solving the dilemma at hand -- a 2.6-ton granite slab and the gray area between religious freedom and religion sterility -- should be a goal we can reach.