Friday, March 23, 2018

Alabama Legislature Approves Ballot Issue On Ten Commandments

The Alabama legislature yesterday approved S 181 (full text), submitting a proposed state constitutional amendment to the voters. The operative provisions of the proposed amendment read:
Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his or her own conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, or, against his or her consent, to contribute to the erection or support of any place of religious worship, or to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for the support of any minister of the gospel. Property belonging to the state may be used to display the Ten Commandments, and the right of a public school and public body to display the Ten Commandments on property owned or administrated by a public school or public body in this state is not restrained or abridged. The civil and political rights, privileges, and capacities of no person shall be diminished or enlarged on account of his or her religious belief. No public funds may be expended in defense of the constitutionality of this amendment.
The Ten Commandments shall be displayed in a manner that complies with constitutional requirements, including, but not limited to, being intermingled with historical or educational items, or both, in a larger display within or on property owned or administrated by a public school or public body.
The inclusion of the ban on using public funds to defend the constitutionality of the amendment is apparently a response to criticism from opponents that the amendment will merely invite costly lawsuits. (See AP report on the passage of the bill.)  Also, apparently the amendment is not intended to repeal the somewhat overlapping provisions of the existing Sections 3 , 3.01 (Amendment 622) and 263 of the state constitution. [Thanks to Tom Rutledge for the lead.]