Pillars in our schools?


Published April 4, 2002

Bradley County is one of many in the state of Tennessee that has passed a proposal making it legal to post the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Some civil liberties activists have attacked this, citing that it violates the rights of the First Amendment. However, a local high school student is protesting it in a more original manner. She has asked the county to post the Five Pillars of Islam alongside the Ten Commandments.

"This is not only a Christian nation, but a nation for everyone," Rachel Cate, a Cleveland High School student, told county officials. The county told her that they would not include the Five Pillars of Islam because, as Commission Chairman Mike Smith said, "At this point, we have our agendas full," - and that it would also be inappropriate due to the events of Sept. 11.

The American Civil Liberties Union is not defending the idea of putting up the Five Pillars of Islam in public spaces, but it recognizes the point of Cates' action. As Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU, put it, she, "asked them to post another religious document in the hope of having them understand that county governments cannot and should not promote one religious doctrine over another."

Because Bradley County displays the Ten Commandments in government buildings and at the same time refuses to display texts of other religions, the local government is fully endorsing and sponsoring one religion over all others, which is strictly unconstitutional.

The Five Pillars of Islam should not be placed in public buildings and the leadership of Bradley County agrees, as do most local governments in the United States. They should not be on public display for the same reason the Ten Commandments should be taken down.

It comes down to a single quotation from the Constitution of the United States: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The position that the Bradley County government is taking on Cate 's request is in outright defiance against one of the fundamental ideals of this nation. Such a position can only be called unconstitutional, unjust and un-American.

Furthermore, Smith's comment to Cate about it being inappropriate to display the Five Pillars of Islam due to Sept. 11 is not only ignorant, but unfair. The actions of a small, fringe group killing people in the name of Islam do not represent a religion with millions of followers, most of whom condemn such acts.

In short, the whole incident is a startling reminder of the viscous attack many local government officials across the nation are waging against the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.