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In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania it is:



September 2001


Campaign finance reform becomes a crucial platform issue


Editorial: Welcome to the Pittsburgh Standard

Letters to the editor:

Two powerhouses govern the people in different ways

Bush power to the rescue


Finding the right priced textbook


Cruising the Burgh on foot


Chi Alpha ministries makes an impact

The Newman Club offers Catholics hope

Moral law or religious banter: The debate over the 10 Commandments continues


Jaromir Jagr makes capital with the Capitals

The Great Race: For the elite and slow of feet

The pampered life of a college athlete


September online edition

Newman Club helps Catholic students

Jerry Nora
Pittsburgh Standard

            Over the past couple of years, debates have raged across the country as to whether the religious moral law known as the Ten Commandments belongs in government controlled facilities, attached to public monuments, or hung in other prominently displayed locations.  In more recent months, the battle has even moved to the city of Pittsburgh and involves the acceptance of a plaque portraying the Ten Commandments, which has stood in front of the courthouse since 1918.

This controversy actually began as early as 1999 with an attack launched by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.  They believe that according to the First Amendment of our Constitution, such a display as that seen at the Allegheny Courthouse demonstrates the support of a particular religion, thus violating in their minds, the First Amendment.  They are in the process of suing Allegheny County for what is deemed to be an illegal support of religion.

Several solutions to the problem exist, though the two opposing factions will refuse to agree on any of them.  If it is decided that the commandments may no longer remain on the courthouse, one option is to simply remove them.  In a case decided in Utah in 1998, this was the course of action taken by local officials, who removed stone tablets adorned with the Ten Commandments, which had hung on the front door of a Salt Lake City courthouse.  Another option is to relocate the display, which is the course of action that is more often pursued.  Earlier this summer in Elkhart, Indiana, a court case was decided in which a pillar inscribed with the Ten Commandments was ordered to be removed, but will likely be transported to a local church.  The same could be done in Allegheny County as well.  A final possibility is that the display before the Allegheny County Courthouse will remain where it is, despite the protests voiced by many.

Many valid and powerful arguments exist for allowing displays of the Ten Commandments to remain.  Though decidedly religious in their nature and origin, the Ten Commandments do not, to the surprise of the religious-minded as well as the secular, promote a specific religious belief system.  After all, the Hebrew Scriptures that originally contained the Ten Commandments have come to be accepted by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.  Despite this fact, many argue that the support of any religion defies the purpose of the First Amendment.  However, recognizing the appropriateness of what is stated within the commandments does not necessarily promote a religion as much as it upholds what is considered to be moral by our society, in law and in practice.

Another argument made in support of maintaining the depiction of the Ten Commandments is that they are a historical monument as much as a religious statement.  Secularists involved in the debate have even supported this line of thinking.  After all, the Allegheny County display has stood for 83 years.  In addition, it highlights a key motivating factor in the creation of our system of law, and by allowing it to remain we are reminded of our legal roots, despite the fact that some do not appreciate those original influences.  This argument is strengthened by the fact that efforts are not being made to introduce such a display into the courtroom, but to allow what has stood for years to remain outside of the courthouse.

At this stage, little solace is found in the examination of similar situations to that of Allegheny County, found across the country.  Identical scenarios have arisen and have been decided in different ways, sometimes in favor of leaving the commandments, sometimes demanding their removal.  Though the definitive word may rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, at this point that judicial powerhouse refuses to hear cases concerning this issue.  As more cases are identified and decided across the country, it is likely that the Supreme Court will eventually need to become involved.  However, their involvement and eventual decision will not bring closure to the situation, for regardless of which way they may decide, countless individuals of the opposing faction will cry out in anger.

Only time will tell what the ultimate outcome will be concerning the Ten Commandments and their display in relation to government funded facilities.  However, regardless of the outcome, it would be a shame if citizens were forced to forget a contributing factor in the creation of law as we know it and enforce it today.  It would also be unfortunate if such moral standards, regardless of their origin, were abandoned in locations where they are most critical.  The Allegheny County battle may soon be over, but the war will rage on with no end in sight.  The U.S. Supreme Court may eventually announce a victor, but the defeated will never accept what will appear to be an artificial declaration of peace for what is such a passionate issue in the lives of so many Americans.


  Volume I: Issue I

Editorial Board

Jeremy Day: Editor in Chief

Kensley Lewis & Jackie Martin: Layout Editors

Matthew Bell: Copy Editor

Center for Life and Family: Publisher