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Ten Commandments suddenly appear at Georgia Capitol

7:05 PM, Sep 7, 2012   |    comments
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  • Ten Commandments part of historical document display at Georgia State Capitol
  • Ten Commandments on display at Georgia State Capitol
  • Georgia State Capitol (East side)
  • Atlanta Constitutional and First Amendment attorney Alan Begner
  • Georgia State Representative Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson)
    

ATLANTA - There was no fanfare, no ribbon cutting, not even a ceremony when the Ten Commandments went on public display at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday.

The question is, how long will they stay there?

The laws that the Holy Bible says God gave to Moses can now be found in the capitol's basement museum display.

They're hanging alongside eight other documents such as the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to Georgia's Constitution.

All nine are part of what is called the "Historical Foundations of American Law and Government".

This specific display was authorized by the State Legislature for all public buildings.

State Representative Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) was the main sponsor.

"A lot of people consider the Jewish Bible and the Christian Bible to be history books and so, it is historical in nature," Benton told 11 Alive News on Friday.

Federal courts have banned the Ten Commandments from being displayed in public buildings or on public property by themselves, but have allowed them to be part of a larger historical presentation.

The courts have also ruled against any such displays authorized by legislation that mentions God or religion as the reason.

Georgia's HB766 says the display was meant, "to educate and inform the public about the history and background of American law."

Atlanta attorney Alan Begner, who specializes in Constitutional and First Amendment law, told 11 Alive that stated purpose could mean Georgia's new display is safe from any legal challenge.

"If the reason you say you put them up is just to have a historical look at such documents...it may be lawful," Begner said.

Representative Benton pointed out that his original bill passed in 2006, was amended last year to include the State Capitol and, so far, there's been no legal challenge.

Now that the Ten Commandments are finally on display, we'll see...

(In case you're wondering, the document display was donated by State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens and his wife, Suzanne. Hugens co-sponsored the original bill when he was in the legislature). 

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