Current Issues
‘Philosophy’ poster containing Ten Commandments gets judge back in spotlight
January 29, 2010

The Ten Commandments represent  God’s law. We no longer live according to the law, for according to Romans 6:14,  we ” are not under law but under grace”. However, this law still represents the structure that God presented as a means to keep His people from harm and wholly devoted to Him.  This article represents a much deeper issue that is affecting religious freedom of people of faith across America.

A second constitutional challenge to an Ohio judge’s display of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom is making its way through the court system.

At issue is whether a new, self-designed and framed poster put up by Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese in his Mansfield courtroom is constitutional. He says it is. Advocates for church-state separation say it isn’t.

The judge hung the poster in 2006. That was after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 let stand previous lower-court rulings that his first poster, which he hung in 2000, violated the constitutional separation between church and state.

On Tuesday, Americans United for Separation of Church and State joined Hindu, Jewish and other groups in filing a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the judge’s display is an unconstitutional governmental endorsement of religion. The brief was filed in the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

DeWeese is appealing an October ruling by a federal district court that found his new display unconstitutionally endorsed particular religious views over others. The court ruled in a complaint filed in 2008 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

Attorneys for DeWeese argue in a brief filed to the appeals court last month that the new poster is “markedly different” from the 2000 display in which he hung separate posters of the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights.

The new poster is titled “Philosophies of Law in Conflict,” and shows two columns. On the left are the Ten Commandments, labeled “moral absolutes.” On the right are seven of what the judge called “humanist precepts,” which he labeled “moral relatives.”

Humanism rejects religious beliefs and holds that humans control their own actions.

The poster includes a commentary by the judge. DeWeese wrote that he sees a conflict of legal philosophies in the United States. It is moral absolutism versus moral relativism or, as examples, the Ten Commandments and the humanist precepts, he wrote. He added that he believes legal philosophy must be grounded on fixed moral standards and not on moral relativism.

No matter, replied the advocates for church-state separation in their court filing. They argue that DeWeese’s new poster is an attempt to “dress a religious display in secular clothing.”

It is unknown when the appeals court will rule. DeWeese did not return a message seeking comment.

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