Religious Tolerance in the Courtroom: Law & Religion Collide

Unless you're from Mars, a distinct possibility since it's so close, you've probably heard about Judge Moore. Regardless of where your beliefs stand, here are some additional observations to consider.

Tuesday's Los Angeles Daily Journal (you may need a subscription to view) featured an article that a statue of Moses, holding the ten commandments, is immediately above the entrance to the Los Angeles County Superior Court downtown civil courthouse. He's right there next to a medieval knight holding the Magna Carta and a founding father with the Declaration of Independence. All great documents, to be sure.

This morning's CNN Headline News featured an email comment from someone commenting on Judge Moore's stand that asked the question whether the act of swearing on the bible before you give testimony will be yanked out of court, too. (By the way, it's already gone – and you don't swear “so help me God” anymore.) Courts have consistently required the separation of religous symbols from government-related activities. There are legions of cases where nativity scenes have been removed from city parks, as required by Courts interpreting the First Amendment.

With the plurality of religions now in the United States, the wisdom of our founding fathers couldn't have been more appropos – especially when you consider that they came from the time when religon was often a government cram-down, and the need to avoid that today.

Religous symbolism exists in any number of government activities – just flip over your dollar bill, or read the Constitution as Judge Moore suggests. But we're also founded on religious tolerance, necessary even more now with the many religions observed here.

There's no easy answer to the question, and one that requires each of us to search our own beliefs for guidance before casting the first stone.

photo image of statue of Moses by Michelangelo  in San Pietro in Vincoli

[thanks to j. craig williams and sebastian bergman via cc]