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State Lawmaker wants Ten Commandments in every classroom

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- A state lawmaker and congressional candidate said Tuesday it is because of Christianity that other religions have been allowed into the United States.

The comments by Sen. Anthony Kern came as he was pushing the House Education Committee to adopt his plan to allow the posting of the Ten Commandments in every classroom. The Glendale Republican said it is only right to permit it to not only be put on the wall but also to let teachers talk about it.

"Our history is the Ten Commandments, our history is the Judeo-Christian values,'' he told committee members.

"And because America is such a diverse nation, it is because of the Christian religion that we have allowed their religions to come in and be known,'' Kern said. "Because of the Christian religion and its foundation in this nation is the reason why we have other religions in this nation.''

Kern also claimed that the Ten Commandments are in the "founding documents'' of the United States.

Pushed for specifics, he could not name any. But Kern said that their essence is baked into everything, including representatives government and legislative districts.

"A lot of that is in the Old Testament where Moses was told to appoint leaders under him, leaders of 10, leaders of 50, leaders of 100,'' he said. "That's what that's all based on.''

But it is the idea that Christianity has a special place that is the basis of Kern's SB 1151 -- and the basis for objections from several lawmakers who said this has no place in schools, especially where it will be the teachers and administrators who have the option of posting and discussing.

What, asked Rep. Nancy Gutierrez, D-Tucson, of parental rights?

"It is an opt-in for the teachers,'' Kern said.

"And normally what teachers do is they notify the parents that, 'Hey, we're going to be talking about Ten Commandments, world history, American history,' '' he said. "If a parent ... wants to opt out, that is absolutely their prerogative.''

Only thing is, that's not what SB 1151 says.

Kern's proposal, which already has been approved by the Senate, is based on existing law that allows certain documents to be read or posted in any school. These range from the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance to writing of the founding fathers and presidents, decisions of the Supreme Court and the state motto of "Ditas
Deus,'' which means "God enriches.''

SB 1151 would add the Ten Commandments to that list. And that would mean the document could remain for the entire school year, with no real opt-out for a student sitting in that class.

Kern did not immediately return a message asking how a parent could avoid having a student in a room with what is generally seen as a religious document.
Where the option would be is on the teacher.

"If a teacher feels that shouldn't be taught in their class, it's not a mandate,'' Kern said.

Ditto posting the Commandments.

That permissive language appears to be an attempt to get around a 1980 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which concluded that a requirement to post the Ten Commandments in schools violated the provision of the First Amendment which says there can be "no law respecting an establishment of religion.''

Kern also made it clear that while there is freedom of religion in the United States, his only interest is allowing the posting and reading of the Ten Commandments. He said if someone else wants to run legislation allowing teachers to talk about or post something from the Koran "they can run that bill.''

And as to other religious texts, like the Book of Mormon, Kern said they are not referenced by the founders of this country -- something that would be impossible as the religion was not founded until 1830.

"Our history is the Ten Commandments, our history is the Judeo-Christian values,'' he said.

"It's because of the Ten Commandments this country was based upon,'' Kern said.

"Our system of government is based on the Ten Commandments.''

Gutierrez said that Kern's view of the country is based on a flawed view of its history.

"Our heritage in America is based on us coming in, stealing land away from indigenous people and taking their religion away and replacing it with ours,'' she said.

"We are not a Christian nation but a nation that allows people to practice based on their own faith,'' Gutierrez continued. That includes not just multiple religions but also people who practice none.

She also pointed out that the Ten Commandments is nowhere in the official curriculum of what students are supposed to be taught.

Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, D-Chandler, agreed.

"If parents want a religious education for their child they can choose a private school, they can teach them at home, or they can take them to church or temple,'' she said.

The measure cleared the committee on a 6-4 vote, but only because Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, agreed to go along despite his misgivings. He cited that 1980 decision.

"I took an oath to uphold Arizona's and the country's constitution,'' Cook said. But he agreed to allow it to go forward in hopes of getting a clearer ruling from House staff attorneys when the measure now goes to the Rules Committee.

On X and Threads: @azcapmedia

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