Separation of Church and State was a clear intent of the framers of the Constitution. From what I remember this part of the Constitution was debated vigorously and softer language was agreed upon because of the will of certain states. The intent, though, was clear as expressed in letters and articles by the founding fathers, including Jefferson.
Rem, this point is very arguable and one that we will not ever settle here.
The infamous 1802 Letter to the Danbury Baptists from Jefferson was not about denying any the public display of their beliefs, but to ensure them there would be no religious persecution as they had experienced from the Angelicans in colonies earlier.
I believe it wasn't until 1947 that the Supreme Court, in Everson vs Board of Education, failed to cite the entire letter and only cited 8 words from it, "a wall of separation between Church and State," and also stated, "that wall must be kept high and impregnable."
Just because it's not explicitly in the Constitution does not mean it is not an American ideal. The Constitution was a work of compromise. Though many of the framers were enlightened, there was still a great deal of Christian Fundamentalist influence by a vocal minority.
Thomas Jefferson was neither a framer or signer of the Constitution, was he? Your first sentence could also become quite an interesting discussion, but would take this off topic, ie: gun ownership. Maybe another thread another time.
However, enlightenment has never deprived others of their free expression of beliefs. We also have statements from early founders such as;
(from Governor Morris, the one who actually wrote the agreed upon Constitution) "Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man to God." (in commentaries on the US Constitution written in 1790 and 1791)
The same day Congress passed the First Amendment to the Constitution, they also passed the Northwest Ordinance, establishing future governments of new states north and west of the Ohio River. In Article 3, they wrote: "Knowledge, morality, and religion being essential for the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education are to be forever encouraged."
After Congress established Chaplains for the US House and Senate, George Washington spoke to a Committee of the United Baptist Churches of Virginia, wherein he expressed the need to "establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and every species of religious persecution."
In addition to Jeffersons infamous letter above, he also signed legislation appropriating Christian missionaries to the Native Americans of the time and establishing Churches with a tax-free status.
It would seem to me that the modern interpretation of his letter and the First Amendment were totally foreign to them back then and never was intended to deny any showing of religious beliefs in public arenas.
From the slippery slope of mob rule. Right now it may not be a problem and the dominant religion may be relatively begnign, but what if a virulent form of Islam becomes popluar in the future and all of a sudden you are in the minority. Then all of their ideals are publicly diplayed on public property and your precious Christian ideals are thrown out. Fundamentalis Islamic Justices could rule that many laws are constitutional just because of their belief in the Koran (this has the Christian analog of sodomy laws). There doesn't need to be a state religion for religious beliefs to take over the laws of a State and Country. It's already happened with Christianity!
It seems to me that Islam (since that is the one you mentioned) is being protected within their communities, yet, any form of Judeo-Christianity is being attacked. Granted, Sodomy Laws have been struck down and personally, I have no problem there. But, to go after simple displays of the Ten Commandments? Which are usually mere tablets with 10 Roman Numerals on them? Besides which, simply removing some monument will do nothing to modify anyone's personal belief or it's influence on their decision's, any more than having it there will make them decide a specific way.
As far as the "slippery slope of mob rule," I see that coming from those who wish to remove all references of Christianity from any public area. Whether I believe in God or not, seeing a monument of the 10 Commandments or a cross has absolutely no effect on me whatsoever. I am also free to either display or not display things that conform to my belief, or, I was until recently.
You are being disingenous. If a Buddhist judge decorated the courthouse with Buddhist statues and monuments while clearing out Christian ones, this would be a clear violation of the principle of separation of church and state. If this started happening all over the state, where the Christian monuments were taken out and Buddhist monuments were put in, you'd be up in arms. I'm sure Justice Moore wouldn't be too happy with a Koran monument in his courthouse, nor a statue of Buddah.
Ah, I'm disengenious, but you take it a step further by saying that others add their monuments after removing Christian ones? Not what we were discussing, is it? By the recent ruling, it should be illegal for any display of personal beliefs. What I said wouldn't bother me was that others display theirs right alongside Christian ones. If any wish a public display of their beliefs, so what? Do we also destroy all monuments to veterans because citizens from countries we defeated may see them and be offended? How far do we end up going?
Should we destroy all copies of Linclon's Gettysburg Address due to his mention of "Nature's God" in it? If not, why not?
If a Justice is so zealous in his religion that he believes he cannot remove his religious monuments without dishonoring his god, how can anyone state that his judgements are not biased by his religious beliefs? This does not bother you now because his beliefs somewhat mirror yours. But what if an Islamic Justice who is just as zealous about Islam rules that a law forbidding the eating of pork is constitutional? (see sodomy analog)
Actually, his beliefs do not mirror mine. After JWs, I'm not even sure I believe in God. What I do believe in is everyone's right to free expression, be it Christian, Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Islamic or whatever. But, Judges have rendered their decisions by personal beliefs throughout history. Having or not having a monument nearby will do nothing to preclude that. We all have personal beliefs and they have effect on our decisions everyday. This Federal Judge is rendering his decision based on his personal belief of the interpretation of a mere 8 words without seeing the overall context of that letter they were contained in.
Also, having religious themed monuments on public property is shoving religious belief down my throat. I don't believe in that stuff and I don't believe it has any place in a court of law. I don't believe the Ten Commandments, the Koran, or the Vedas are the foundation of our system of Justice. There are enough places where religion can be practiced - even on public property without spending my tax dollars.
Sorry to disillusion you, but many of our laws are based on religious thoughts from long ago, including the very 10 Commandments mentioned. Do we also rid ourselves of laws against murder and stealing? They were in the 10 Commandments centuries before our laws.
As mentioned above, mere monuments do not make a persons beliefs. Will you also call for hiding away all religious buildings and artifacts, simply because you don't believe in them? Your "tax dollars" were not spent on that monument, unless you are very old and a resident of Alabama. But, they are spent in silly pursuits of denying people their freedom of expression and tying up courts over things that simply cannot hurt anyone.
If you don't believe things like the 10 Commandments were the foundation of our legal system, where did they get laws against stealing, murder and such?
There is no need to practice religion on the government's dime (my tax dollars). That includes schools. Religion should not be a part of the classroom, other than study of comparitive religion. Remember, your tax dollars would not only support the religious expression and practice of Christians, but of every other religion, including satan worshipers. I don't think tax dollars should be used for that purpose.
Locally, studies on comparative religions have been going on, with the exclusion of Christianity. When growing up back in the 50's, we had a Jewish teacher who also taught us a little about Jesus in school. Not like churches did, of course, but from a more historic standpoint. It didn't harm me in anyway.
Personally, I would rather see schools teaching a decent set of values than telling kids what parents can and cannot do and helping them seek taxpayer funded abortions without parental consent and actually hiding it from parents.
Military Chaplains, I believe, are different. As long as no religious group is denied, I don't see a problem. It is a service that has to be sought out. Chaplains will not bother you if you do not desire to be visited by them. They are also providing a service that is available to civillians, but not to soldiers when they are away from civillian life. Not sure how I feel about military chapels, but I can see it in the same light.
But, isn't this a contradiction? Chaplains and military Chapels are taxpayer funded. Chaplains are automatically appointed officers, receiving higher tax paid wages than enlisted. And, they are not sitting there waiting to be sought out, but are actually going out to the troops when they feel necessary. True, no one is forced to attend any services and most religions are represented, but your tax dollars, the same tax dollars you said above "There is no need to practice religion on the government's dime (my tax dollars)," are funding them. If we are to adhere to the letter of "Separation of Church and State," shouldn't we disband the militaries Chaplain Service and force government soldiers to seek religion on their own time? Unfortunately, I can see us headed there with many rulings against only one religious thought.
But then again, that's not the same thing as putting a monument of the Ten Commandments on the deck of a warship or anything.
And, just what do you think is in Military Chapels on Military bases and ships?
Edited to add: If we are goping to continue this discussion, maybe we should move it to another thread as we are getting way off topic of terrorism and such.