The First Amendment's kibosh on mixing government and religion has two purposes - to keep the church (whichever church) from having too much influence over the Government and to keep the Government from having too much influence over the church. Despite my father in law's announcement that "that could never happen," that is exactly why Christianity as a whole advocated for the Wall of Separation in the 1930s - 60s.
Baptists in Georgia, however, seem to believe that the First Amendment is a hindrance. How else could one explain their insistence on putting a display including the Ten Commandments up in a Georgia Courthouse?
I can hear eyes rolling right now, "But Steve, just because the Baptist Church bought a display to put in a Courthouse does not mean that they intend to coerce the Judicial System!" Perhaps if that was all that happened, there might be an argument there. But, despite Antonin Scalia's belief that you should only look to the law and not the Congressional notes explaining Congress's intent, when one looks at what the Baptist Church has said, the conclusion is almost inescapable. Excerpts from the article linked above:
According to the Christian Index (the state Baptist newspaper), County Commissioner Eldrin Bell recited Romans 12:1-2 and said the government needs to “be in the mind-transforming business.” Jurors, he said, will see the display and have their minds filled with truth.
The Rev. Dean Haun, pastor of theJust read that last line - This display will influence all future jurors. Wow. That flies directly in the face of Separation of Church and State, when one denomination undertakes to demonstrate to members of ALL FAITHS AND RELIGIONS that they need to toe the line and play Baptist.
, explained that the display was “strategically placed in the hallway to the jury assembly room where jurors are selected. “Surely,” he continued, “this display of our values and ethical principles will influence all future jurors.” First Baptist Church
That's all kinds of wrong.