The Washington Post reports that in the aftermath of yesterday’s split decision, some prominent religious right leaders are planning a massive campaign to put Ten Commandments monuments at public buildings around the country. Their reasoning is rather bizarre:
Within hours of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision allowing a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, Christian groups announced a nationwide campaign to install similar displays in 100 cities and towns within a year.
“We see this as an historic opening, and we’re going to pursue it aggressively,” said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, which organized vigils outside the Florida hospice where Terri Schiavo died this year.
Although disappointed that the court ruled in a related case that two Kentucky counties could not hang framed versions of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses, Mahoney said the Texas decision was sufficient to “open up a whole new frontier” for preserving the United States’ “Christian heritage.”
One has to wonder what rulings they read to get this idea. The Texas monument was upheld only because Justice Breyer decided it had been there long enough that it was pointless to remove it and the Kentucky case reaffirmed the purpose prong of the Lemon test as important in determining the constitutionality of newer displays. Do you suppose the announced plans of the head of the Christian Defense Coalition are likely to be viewed as having a clear secular purpose? Here’s my favorite part:
Mahoney, a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, said a coalition of evangelical Christian organizations would analyze the Supreme Court rulings and formulate guidelines for erecting Ten Commandments monuments that can pass legal muster. He said he sent fundraising letters yesterday to 600 potential donors, hoping to create a national fund to pay for the monuments.
Unless he’s planning on finding a way to travel back in time to meet the standard in Van Orden, I don’t think it’s gonna work. But it doesn’t have to work, you see, because the last sentence is the key to the whole thing. The monument in Texas that was at issue in Van Orden was placed there as part of a marketing campaign for a movie and it may well have put some extra cash in Cecil B. Demille’s bank account. Little has changed.