06/28/05 — Reaction to court decision on Ten Commandments is mixed

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Reaction to court decision on Ten Commandments is mixed

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on June 28, 2005 1:45 PM

Local reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on displaying the Ten Commandments in public places was mixed.

Some Wayne County residents said they believed the court made a mistake in its 5-4 vote that approved some displays, while ruling out others.

Others said they felt the court did the right thing.

Wayne County Commis-sioner Chairman J.D. Evans said he believes the high court erred in not sending a clearer signal.

"I have a problem with the court in that they are not consistent and totally clear concerning this whole issue," Evans said. "Somewhere along the line, they need to give a clearer picture. Anything that enhances the moral integrity of the nation should be considered worthwhile."

Pikeville Mayor Herb Sieger said religion is already in the courthouse.

"How about when they swear on the Bible when they swear in their judges?" he asked.

Sieger said the court went too far in trying to keep religion out of politics.

"Separation of church and state is not in the Constitution," he said. "I think you can't take the moral fiber out of the people and say 'now go ahead now be moral.'"

Goldsboro businessman Steve Keen said the Commandments form the basis of the U.S. legal system and deserve to be displayed prominently inside and out.

"I can tell you what the Ten Commandments are as far as how I feel, and that would be the highest law," he said. "To me, the Ten Commandments dictate how we should live our lives and raise our children. For many people, the absolute truth."

Many of the issues facing government today -- crime, abortion, genetic engineering, cloning -- are addressed by the Commandments, Keen said. The First Amendment should not be interpreted so tightly as to prohibit every mention of religion, he added.

The Rev. Fred Clarke, pastor of First Christian Church, pointed out the irony of putting the Ten Command-ments on display.

"The Ten Commandments themselves instruct us not to make any graven images," he said. "When we engrave the Ten Commandments and put them outside the court, perhaps that's not in the spirit of the Ten Commandments."

He encouraged people to study the Ten Commandments themselves and, in turn, share them with family and friends.

"I would like to invite all parents and grandparents in our community to send their children to Sunday School, where they can see and learn the Ten Commandments," he said. "If we had Christians attending church and inviting non-Christians to join them, then we wouldn't be so concerned about having the Ten Commandments posted in the community."

The Rev. Arthur Evans, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, called the decision by the Supreme Court "outstanding."

"I think it's fantastic because I think it upholds the principle of Christianity that defines our laws, values and certainly our beliefs," he said. "This event is a milestone in terms of us redefining whether we really believe.

"Far too often it has been arbitrary about what we really believe. This helps us look at what we really believe, getting back to the basic fundamentals of our nation, which evolved out of Christianity."

Dr. David Hines, chairman of the department of religion at Mount Olive College, said he has closely followed this story in the news and has brought speakers to the campus to discuss it.

"Basically, it's the kind of issue we debate in class all the time," he said.

Hines said if it were up to him, he would not be involved in the fight at all. He said he doesn't trust the government to support a religious position, noting that it should be left up to the churches and synagogues.

"My basic conviction on this is that people who call themselves Christians or Jews live outside the tenets of the Ten Commandments daily. Then public displays will no longer be an issue," he said. "I hear a lot of people screaming and shouting about putting them up; I don't hear near as much about living them."

Hines said he thinks proponents of the Commandments might be fighting the wrong battle.

"We need to be teaching these as moral absolutes in churches and synagogues and then teaching people to follow these in our daily lives," he said. "I'm a little bit more concerned about practice than I am words."

The Rev. Jim Whitfield, senior pastor at First Pentecostal Holiness Church, said the court's ruling provides an opportunity for discussion of what the Commandments mean. He said that given the choice between displaying them inside or outside, outside presents more of an opportunity for them to have a positive effect on people.

"It's not a totally bad ruling," Whitfield said.