Bill OKs 10 Ten Commandments in Ga. government buildings



ATLANTA — A copy of the Ten Commandments could be posted in all Georgia government buildings and schools under a bill passed unanimously Tuesday by House lawmakers.

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, is seeking to expand a 2006 law that already permits the passage from the Old Testament to be displayed in judicial buildings and courthouses when accompanied by other historical documents deemed to have influenced the U.S. legal system. State lawmakers passed that original law one year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Commandment displays in two Kentucky courthouses, ruling they appeared to be a government endorsement of Christianity.

His latest bill passed by a vote of 161-0 and now heads to the state Senate. It has few vocal opponents and a strong chance of passing in a Bible Belt Legislature.

“If you look at the law of the United States, we have a lot of laws that are based on the Christian and Jewish Ten Commandments, so I felt that was a very appropriate item to be put in there,” Benton said.

His opponents argue the bill would allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in school buildings, an area where courts typically draw a sharper line in favor of the secular in disputes over church and state.

“There’s a faulty premise there and that is that The Ten Commandments has anything to do with the civil laws of the United States - it does not, of course,” said Barry Lynn, a Christian minister and the executive director of the Washington-based Americans United For Separation Of Church and State. “We don’t make it illegal to dishonor our mother and father. We don’t have blasphemy laws.”

Lynn predicted that expanding the displays could provoke a lawsuit. Lawyers for his group last year counted at least five other states that passed resolutions or laws promoting the display of the Commandments in public buildings.


• A Senate committee passed legislation Tuesday that would make some types of mass picketing illegal and could result in hefty fines and prison time.

The bill passed without objection from lawmakers, but faced considerable opposition from labor groups. Senate Bill 469 bans mass picketing at private homes or at the site of labor disputes when such protests are blocking or threatening business entrances or certain public areas. People found guilty could be subject to a fine of $1,000 per day of the violation. Any union or organization assisting such efforts could be subject to a fine of $10,000 per day.

• Teachers who cheat on standardized tests in Georgia would forfeit any bonuses they earn for student scores under a bill approved Tuesday in the House.

• The Georgia Senate approved legislation Tuesday that could make the optional “In God We Trust” decals for state license plates free. The bill would also end the requirement for license plates to display a county decal and would make them optional. Currently, drivers have the option of adding the religious decal to the car tag for an additional dollar.

• Legislation heading for a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee would make Georgia consumers pay a sales tax on items they buy online from Web sites based in the state and those considered affiliates of national retailers. The money would be used to restore tax-free shopping days for parents buying school supplies. Gov. Nathan Deal told members of the Georgia Press Association last month that he was considering similar legislation.

– From wire reports