Scott Tibbs
Hoosier Review, August 3rd, 2003

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Christian leaders using the wrong strategy on Ten Commandments monument

The Christian Defense Coalition is urging civil disobedience to protest the removal of a 5,300-pound granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments from a courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama. The Rev. Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said; "My sense is a line in the sand needs to be drawn in Montgomery, Alabama. We're seeing an incredible erosion of civil liberties and free speech rights, particularly in the area of religious free speech and expression in the public square." The Alabama Christian Coalition and the national Clergy Council are also encouraging the protest. Alabama Christian Coalition President John Giles said he would be willing to go to jail over the issue.

This isn't the first of such protests. Twenty-one protesters were arrested in June for kneeling at a school building in West Union, Ohio to hinder workers sent to remove stone tablets with the Ten Commandments etched on them. Despite the protest, the 800-pound tablets were removed.

While the protest is planned to be a peaceful sit-in, civil disobedience to protest the monument's removal is not the proper way to deal with this matter. Organizing a nationwide call for civil disobedience does not reflect well on the group's position and may actually do more harm than good. If these people feel the decision is unlawful, they should work through the legal system to keep the monument in place rather than outside of it.

This issue is hardly one worth organizing a national civil disobedience drive over. This is not a civil rights issue; it is about an inanimate object on government property. No free speech rights are being violated and the monument could easily be relocated to private property. If the monument were on private property, there would be no serious opposition to it.

Christians can expect the government to not prohibit their own speech, but cannot expect the government to serve as a way to amplify that speech. As the placement of the monument was an act of government, no person has lost his right to free speech or freedom of religion. If conservative Christians wish to seriously object to the use of taxpayer funding for groups like Planned Parenthood, we cannot demand that the government support our own agenda.

Christians should be wary of the entanglement of church and state. While the phrase "separation of church and state" appears nowhere in the Constitution, it is best to, within reason, keep religious messages out of government. If a Christian official can put up a monument of the Ten Commandments, can a Wiccan official put up a monument with one of that religion's sayings? What about a Muslim erecting a monument with a verse from the Koran? Would a conservative Christian support the right to have a monument on government property espousing a Buddhist or Hindu teaching?

Government is not the solution to our problems as a culture. If a monument of the Ten Commandments were on every County Courthouse and a plaque with the Ten Commandments were on every school classroom wall, it would not begin to address the problems society faces. Problems must be solved at their roots, not with the placement of an inanimate object.

There is no comparison between this movement and the civil rights movement. When Martin Luther King and others conducted civil disobedience, they were championing the rights of blacks to not be discriminated against. This is hardly the same thing. While the anti-abortion movement could be legitimately compared to the civil rights movement, this cannot. Unlike peaceful protests against the termination of a human life by abortion, this is a protest against moving a piece of stone. To compare the removal of an inanimate object with the struggles of the civil rights movement is a grave insult to those who suffered during that movement.

In the early days of the Clinton Administration, Rush Limbaugh criticized the President for actions that were "symbolism over substance." This protest falls into that category. What if energy spent in this campaign were spent elsewhere? So much more good can be done in other areas (including other political battles) than getting arrested in a Quixotic struggle to prevent an inanimate object from being moved. The leaders of this protest need to re-adjust their priorities.

Furthermore, this protest will serve to harm Christianity in the minds of the public. What will non-Christians think when they see Christians being arrested to protect an inanimate object? They will see the tactic as extremism, and will be less sympathetic to Christian beliefs. Christians are charged in the Bible with spreading the Gospel and converting the lost. If those participating in this protest cause unbelievers to harden their hearts against Christ, they betray the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.

Christians have lost much ground in the public arena over the last few decades, but this is not the method by which those losses can be reversed. Instead, Christians should focus on making sure religious liberty is protected, that innocent human life is protected, and that the sanctity of the family is guarded from attacks on it. Most importantly, Christians need to be the light of the world. Not only will this protest not add much light, it may actually make things a bit darker. To those considering this protest, I say: "Stay home. A piece of stone is not worth it."