The attorneys general from Missouri and Kansas have waded into the often bitter argument over the display of religious monuments on public property.
Josh Hawley of Missouri and Derek Schmidt of Kansas have joined representatives from 21 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a monuments case from New Mexico.
We hope the high court takes up the case, too, but not for the reason Hawley and Schmidt envision.
They think it should be easier to maintain permanent religious symbols on public grounds. We think the court should use this opportunity to say definitively that such displays are always unconstitutional.
The New Mexico case began in 2011, when a former city councilman in Bloomfield got permission to install a 5-foot granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments at city hall.
“We want the government to leave us alone and to keep … their hands off our money, our religion, our Ten Commandments, our guns,” Kevin Mauzy said.
The City of Bloomfield has appealed to the Supreme Court, which is deciding if it wants to take the case.
In mid-August, Hawley, Schmidt and the others urged the justices to do so. The country is confused, they say, over what rules apply to religious displays on public grounds.
There is disagreement over the line between permissible religious speech on public grounds and unconstitutional public endorsement of religion. Prayers before city council meetings and temporary Nativity scenes in the park continue to kick up legal dust in courtrooms across the nation. That may be unavoidable.
But there can be no mistake about permanent religious monuments on public grounds: They represent a clear endorsement of a particular faith, which the Constitution prohibits. Imagine a Christian cross permanently affixed to the door over City Hall, or a Muslim star and crescent over a courtroom door, and you see the concern.
And there’s a simple solution: Move religious monuments to religious property, where those who want to read them can. In 2003, a Ten Commandments monument on Wyandotte County property was moved to a nearby church. Perfect.
Sadly, Hawley and Schmidt seem more interested in scoring political points than developing constitutional solutions. They would be wise to reconsider participation in this case.