AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
Chalk up a big win for people who have long believed that North Dakota public schools should be allowed to post the Ten Commandments in their classrooms if they so choose.
On Friday, April 16, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed SB 2308, which had previously overwhelmingly passed both houses of the North Dakota Legislature.
While there are many that opposed the bill, including the North Dakota School Boards Association, out of fear that local school boards would become embroiled over lawsuits of the separation of church and state, proponents contend that the display of the Ten Commandments would help to remedy certain social ills.
The Legislature and the governor fully understood the risk of lawsuits that the passage of this legislation could possibly create, which is why the lawmakers included provisions, such as a requirement that displays of the Judeo-Christian text appear alongside other historical documents.
“School boards are already required to develop a policy for the proper display of any religious objects or documents,” stated Burgum, following his signing of the bill. “This law supports local control and gives school districts full control over whether to display any religious objects or documents.”
Without a doubt, the Ten Commandments offer great moral principles that everyone needs to follow. And having those commandments posted in a school classroom should not pose any greater threat to students than does seeing the American flag flying outside of their school building.
The question that obviously was debated in the Legislature was whether or not the posting of the Ten Commandments in a school classroom was somehow imposing religious beliefs on students and staff. It could be a valid argument.
But that same argument could be applied as to whether or not the National Anthem should be played at high school sporting events.
In both cases, the answer should be the same. Neither seeing the Ten Commandments displayed in a classroom nor the playing of the National Anthem should be banned because they may violate someone’s religious beliefs or other beliefs. If students don’t want to read the Ten Commandments, no one is forcing them to do so. And if someone chooses not to stand for the National Anthem, that is also their right.
North Dakota took a bold step forward by allowing school districts the opportunity to post the Ten Commandments in their classrooms. Now it will be the choice for each and every school board in the state to decide.