The Atheist Community of Austin is dismayed by the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Thomas van Orden v. Texas Governor Rick Perry concerning the Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds. The court ruled that the monument did not violate the Constitution's First Amendment as the alleged secular purpose of the monument was to commending the Fraternal Order of Eagles, in their efforts to reduce juvenile delinquency. The Fraternal Order of Eagles gave the monument to the state in 1961.
The monument is clearly religious in nature and its permanent placement on the capitol grounds does indeed constitute an establishment of religion. Few Americans would make a connection between the monument and juvenile delinquency. Instead, most Americans would recognize it as a symbol of the belief that the US law and our government come from the Judeo-Christian God. Justice Scalia concurred with this perception in the March 2nd oral arguments, adding "And if you don't think it conveys that message, I think you're just kidding yourself." In fact, our nation was made explicitly secular by the founders and US law is based primarily on British Common law, which was in place before Christianity reached Britton.
The ACA commends the efforts of Austinite Thomas van Orden, who against difficult obstacles proved a dedicated advocate for constitutional principles. While many, including the high court, have portrayed him as a lone complainer about a passive monument, we view him instead as courageous patriot. We share with him the desire to uphold the separation of church and state implied by the first amendment as it benefits everyone--the believer and non-believer alike. We also fully understand the persecution that is often faced by those who stand up against the majority religion. We assert that monument went unchallenged for so many years because of this fear.
The ACA agrees with the second Supreme Court ruling in the Kentucky Ten Commandments case, McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. Religious displays in government buildings are also clearly an establishment of religion. The display in the Kentucky case is especially insidious, as it is in a courthouse where all citizens should be guaranteed equal treatment under the law.
The Atheist Community of Austin is organized as a nonprofit educational corporation to develop and support the atheist community, to provide opportunities for socializing and friendship, to promote secular viewpoints, to encourage positive atheist culture, to defend the first amendment principle of state-church separation, to oppose discrimination against atheists and to work with other organizations in pursuit of common goals. For more information about the Atheist Community of Austin or to read our position on the Ten Commandments monuments, see our web site at http://www.atheist-community.org or call 512-371-2911.