The Dreams of Mr. Hutchins

Madisonville, Monroe County (WVLT) – The Ten Commandments continue to be a hot topic here in East Tennessee and one man is making it his business to bring the Commandments back to Monroe County.

Friday marked the third day Jim Hutchins showed up at the Monroe County Courthouse, his mission, simple, to preach the Gospel and tell everyone why it’s so important to have the Ten Commandments present in government buildings.

Hutchins holds up a poster with the ten commandments, as motorists drive by, when it gets too hot outside, he heads indoors to spread the word. . . .

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What people like Mr. Hutchins don’t realize is that they have a constitutional right to do what he is doing. He can stand outside the courthouse all day and wave his sign. All the time he does that, the hand of the 1st Amendment is over him, protecting him.

The government does *not* have that same right. The 1st Amendment specifically forbids the state from establishing a religion. The 14th amendment applies the federal law to the State of Tennessee and all other states. A government monument erected to Bible verses amounts to establishment. There can be no doubt that the Bible is a religious text, though the lawyers for the Christian Right argue that it is not. Therefore a government erected monument to the Bible is “making a law respecting religion.”

The government can’t keep Mr. Hutchins from promoting the 10 Commandments almost wherever he will. That would “prohibit the free exercise thereof.” Mr. Hutchins’s relationship with God is his own and no arrogant politician can interfere with that relationship.

Unfortunately Mr. Hutchins doesn’t seem to think others should be allowed the same freedom he enjoys. He dreams of gaining the the political power to decide your relationship with God for you. He dreams of getting the government to help him make you read the Bible. He, along with most of the Christian Right, doesn’t see the irony of government enforcement of empty lip service to God. He seems to think it is important for him and the government to impose themselves upon your relationship with God.

The founders trusted you with your own religion. They trusted you to decide your own relationship with God. They set up the 1st Amendment–and there is a good reason it is the *first* amendment–to protect you from a government that thinks it knows how, where, when and what you should worship. Mr. Hutchins dreams of writing your prayers for you, picking your Bible passages for you. The Christian Right has assaulted the Constitution many times in the past. Every time they failed to destroy your right to worship–or not worship–as your own conscience dictates.

Always before the Constitution and our right to our own conscience has survived all onslaughts. This latest assault will tell us whether America still desires freedom or if Mr. Hutchins’s dreams will become our nightmares.

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