Monday, August 25, 2003

More Church/State: I tend to be suspicious of slippery-slope arguments (see Volokh, here), but since the argument for removing the ten commandments from the courthouse is essentially such an argument (e.g., next we'll have to bow to the monument), it's instructive to turn the slope around. We hear the standard conservative argument all the time (about "In God We Trust" on money, etc.), but look even deeper. If the presence of a monument to the ten commandments is enough to create an intolerable mixing of church and state, what of a town like San Francisco, named unambiguously for a Catholic saint. Surely the person disturbed by the commandments monument should be concerned about living in a town founded on a purely religious name, for there is no secondary meaning to the name itself, as there is, arguably, a secondary meaning to the commandments (i.e., the sanctity, tradition, and enduring of the law). But even if not, what if the town of San Francisco memorialized its namesake with a monument in a public square, a statue to Saint Francis? Surely this does no more to "establish" religion than the naming of the town itself. That is, if the town is clearly named for a Catholic saint, what exactly is made different by, in essence, personifying that name in stone on the common? If you don't think the statue should stand, it's a bit hard to argue that you can abide the name. This slippery slope could get ridiculous. Should we censor political candidates who mention god or quote scripture, so that no one is offended?

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