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Courtesy State of Idaho

POLL: Should the 10 Commandments monument be removed from a Sandpoint City Park?

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A Farmin Park monument displaying the Ten Commandments in Sandpoint, Idaho might be moved to a new location after complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, SpokaneFAVS reported this week.

What do you think government officials should do?

Tracy Simmons

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons, who teaches journalism at Gonzaga University, is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 13 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash.

She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and for the Religion News Service.

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  • Frank

    No particular / specific religious belief has any place in a public venue. Enjoy your beliefs in private.

  • Elizabeth Rose

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . .”

    Displaying the Ten Commandments is a way that government endorses ONE religious belief over others.

    The Decalogue (just 10 of the 613 commandments in the Torah/OT) seems an especially ironic choice for posting in front of courtrooms and city councils, in light of how FEW of these 10 are actually codified into our modern law today.) One would think that an all-powerful, all-knowing deity who could have set forth ANY rules – ANY provisos – might have forbidden slavery or war, might have outlawed torture or cruelty to women and children, might have prohibited racial or sexual discrimination. What a missed moral opportunity! How different history might have been!

    Regardless, an individual has the freedom to put up their preferred religious monuments and symbols on their own private property. They may cover their cars with religious stickers or tattoo their bodies with religious emblems. They may slaughter and burn their sacrificial goats within their church/temple/mosque, if they so choose. They may pray to any or all of the 10,000+ gods and goddesses that have been worshipped over human history and erect altars to them, in any way they prefer — as long as it is in private — in their homes and religious buildings.

    However, the government must remain NEUTRAL. Public spaces paid for tax dollars and public entities may not endorse any religion nor “establish” one religion over any other religion, or no religion.

  • Jim Downard

    I know Elizabeth, so don’t want to give the impression that its atheists clogging the debate, so by all means people of faith should weigh in on this one.

    The 10 Commandments are unequivocally a set of rules set down by a God regarding how his believers were supposed to behave to get on his good side, hence “no graven images” and such. That elements of it (killing and lying and adultery, though significantly the owning of people did not warrant a slot) are reflected in civil law today is of historical relevance but do not remove the inherently religious character of the slab if its plopped on the people’s institutional turf.

    I would be curious to know if the Sandpoint monument was put up around 1956 (a lot of them were as part of a publicity campaign for Cecile B. DeMille’s movie). Those monuments would be problematic on two grounds (like having a shrine for Coca Cola). Actually, I would have no problem with a display of the history of our legal traditions inside a courthouse, during which the Mosaic law would be a part along with the Code of Hammurabbi and English common law traditions). But to single out the stone block part for special privilege is inconsistent with our secular traditions.

    It would be curious to see if an offer were made to remove the monument to a local church lawn, would there be any fight over who gets the privilege? If the text is the Protestant version (probably the case) a Catholic church may not even want it, and a Jewish synagogue might not be congenial to others.

  • Elizabeth Rose

    The monument, donated by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, was placed there in 1972.

  • Ali

    Please report this correctly; it’s NOT A MEMORIAL. it’s a MONUMENT.

    • Ali

      by FALSELY calling this a “memorial”, this news company is causing more harm to the issue. This block if stone does not “memorialize” anything; it was simply a gift to the city- for no reason whatsoever.

  • The issue here is not one of Freedom of speech or religion.
    The issue here is about the Separation of Church and State. Removing or transplanting the monument will NOT infringe on any right to practice religion or express opinions. Everyone will still be free to express themselves in a public place or practice their religion. Everyone will still be free to put up any monument of their choice on their private property.

    The Separation of Church and State was designed to protect both the state and the church. This is the reason religious institutions are tax exempt.
    Churches are guaranteed the freedom to operate without interference from the state because the state has no business dictating ANY aspect of religion.
    However, the flip side of this is that the Church should have ZERO political presence. If the church can operate free from the government, the government SHOULD operate free from religion.

    The current location of the monument is a tacit endorsement of Judeo-christian religion by the City of Sandpoint; this remains true no matter how long the monument has been in place.
    Removing it harms no one, and does not infringe on any rights.

  • You’re right re: the language. Thanks Ali

  • Cheryl Costigan

    If a statue outlining Christian beliefs is to remain standing in a public park, then every other religion should be allowed equal access. Or, we could just go with separation of church and state which is, I believe, the preferred alternative.

  • Danielle

    Separation of Church and State is not in the Constitution so why is it the issue. Separation of Church and State came from a letter from Thomas Jefferson that he sent to the Baptist Association. Why do people always think that is in the Constitution? Go back to history class. Or better yet actually read the Constitution.

    • Cheryl Costigan

      I certainly could stand to go back to history class Danielle – thanks for that! But I still maintain public spaces should be for everyone and stand by this: If a statue outlining Christian beliefs is to remain standing in a public park, then every other religion should be allowed equal access. Allow all or allow none.

    • Kris

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
      Wow. Just wow. The constitution does not have specific words, but the Establishment Clause (stated above) has generally been interpreted(by the supreme court) to prohibit 1) the establishment of a national religion by Congress, or 2) the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another. You should not just read it, but try and understand it.

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