Florida lawmakers move to protect Ten Commandments in U.S. Constitution

Friday, November 21st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Conservative state lawmakers are joining a campaign to amend the U.S. Constitution so the Ten Commandments can be posted in public places such as schools and courts.

The move comes in the wake of several court fights across the country over the place of the Ten Commandments in public life. Last week, Alabama's chief justice was thrown off the bench for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse.

In Florida, more than a dozen Republican legislators met Wednesday with leaders of a small grassroots evangelical movement that wants the Constitution to state that the Ten Commandments, the motto ``In God We Trust'' and other phrases with references to God can be displayed.

One of the leaders, Duke DuVall of Light of the World Ministries in St. Louis, travels the country on the issue.

Rep. Dennis Baxley said he would sponsor a measure in the Florida House next spring that would urge Congress to change the Constitution. He said there's a groundswell of people who, like him, perceive Christianity is under attack by a liberal court system.

``I meet people all the time who say, 'Isn't there something we can do?''' Baxley said.

The House measure would be purely symbolic, but activists pushing it say it would send a powerful message. A similar measure already has passed in Kentucky and was signed by the governor.

``The first five or six states are going to be important,'' said Judy Webb Sipes, an attorney who worked with DuVall in Kentucky and came to help with Florida's effort.

If the measure is passed by Congress, it would require ratification by 38 states.

Civil liberties groups reject the notion that Christianity is under attack and say efforts to protect the Ten Commandments are an attempt to force religious beliefs onto society and use tax dollars to do it.

``What these people want is government funding for a government-sponsored display of a religious document,'' said Howard Simon, director of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Another conservative religious group called Vision America said earlier this week that it would begin collecting signatures aimed at demanding that Congress do something to protect the Ten Commandments.