Friday, December 30, 2005

Ten Commandments Display Ruled Constitutional

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a display of the Ten Commandments along with other historical documents was constitutional setting up a possible showdown at the Supreme Court over the issue of religious displays and the so-called "wall of separation between church and state" (Hat tip: Captain's Quarters):

A federal appeals court has upheld a display of the Ten Commandments alongside other historical documents in the Mercer County, Ky., courthouse.

The judge who wrote the opinion blasted the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the display, in language that echoed the type of criticism often directed at the organization.

Judge Richard Suhrheinrich's ruling said the ACLU brought "tiresome" arguments about the "wall of separation" between church and state, and it said the organization does not represent a "reasonable person."

The decision was issued by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati. It upheld a lower-court decision that allowed Mercer County to continue displaying the Ten Commandments along with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other documents.

All of the items were posted at the same time in 2001.

The most striking aspect of the ruling is not only the outcome of the case but the threefold criticism of the ACLU's arguments.

First, the Court blasts the ACLU's reference to separation of church and state. The Court states that:

This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.

The phrase "separation of church and state" was actually taken from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist church to affirm the First Amendment principle that the government would not establish a religion. The phrase actually does not appear in the First Amendment.

The second flaw cited by the Court is that the Ten Commandments are strictly religious:

Second, the ACLU focuses on the religiousness of the Ten Commandments. No reasonable person would dispute their sectarian nature, but they also have a secular nature that the ACLU does not address. That they are religious merely begs the question whether this display is religious; it does not answer it. “[T]he stablishment Clause inquiry cannot be distilled into a fixed, per se rule.” Pinette, 515 U.S. at 778 (O’Connor J., concurring); see Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 597-98 (1992). Although treating the subject matter categorically would make our review eminently simpler, we are called upon to examine Mercer County’s actions in light of context. “Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause.” Van Orden, 125 S. Ct. at 2863 (plurality opinion). Moreover, “[f]ocus exclusively on the religious component of any activity would inevitably lead to its invalidation under the Establishment Clause.” Lynch, 465 U.S. at 680. The Constitution requires an analysis beyond the four-corners of the Ten Commandments. In short, “proving” that the Ten Commandments themselves are religious does not prove an Establishment Clause violation.

In other words, the context of the display is as important as the content. Because the Mercer County display included other historical documents alongside the Ten Commandments it was deemed constitutional. However, it is reasonable to expect that a Ten Commandments display, on its own, may be considered unconstitutional depending on where the display resides.

It's also important to consider what the purpose of a display might be. In Mercer County, the purpose was to recognize a number of historical documents that were part of the foundations of our country. The Ten Commandments contain the principles upon which our legal system is based. Within this context, it's appropriate to display it alongside the other documents contained in the Mercer County exhibit.

Finally, the Court dealt with perhaps the most important aspect of the ACLU's argument against such displays:

Third, the ACLU erroneously–though perhaps intentionally–equates recognition with endorsement. To endorse is necessarily to recognize, but the converse does not follow. Cf. Mercer County, 219 F. Supp. 2d at 789 (“Endorsement of religion is a normative concept; whereas acknowledgment of religion is not necessarily a value-laden concept.”). Because nothing in the display, its history, or its implementation supports the notion that Mercer County has selectively endorsed the sectarian elements of the first four Commandments, we fail to see why the reasonable person would interpret the presence of the Ten Commandments as part of the larger “Foundations” display as a governmental endorsement of religion.

We will not presume endorsement from the mere display of the Ten Commandments. If the reasonable observer perceived all government references to the Deity as endorsements, then many of our Nation’s cherished traditions would be unconstitutional, including the Declaration of Independence and the national motto. Fortunately, the reasonable person is not a hyper-sensitive plaintiff. See Washegesic ex rel. Pensinger v. Bloomingdale Pub. Sch., 33 F.3d 679, 684 (6th Cir. 1994) (Guy, J., concurring) (describing the “eggshell” plaintiff as unknown to the Establishment Clause). Instead, he appreciates the role religion has played in our governmental institutions, and finds it historically appropriate and traditionally acceptable for a state to include religious influences, even in the form of sacred texts, in honoring American legal traditions.

The Court has exposed the fallacy of the ACLU's and other lawsuits that have been filed to stop any type of religious activity. The mere acknowledgement of religion is not the same as establishment. Acknowledgement is a recognition of the existence and even influence of religion. Establishment means that by law a religion or church is established as the only legal religious entity that may exist.

With this ruling, The Sixth Circuit has provided the Supreme Court with the perfect opportunity to clarify the law with regards to such displays as the Ten Commandments. As the battle to confirm Judge Alito heats up, it is reasonable to expect this to be one of the many cases that he will be asked about in his confirmation hearings.

Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Two or

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Book Review: Think Before You Look

Pornography has become a multi-billion dollar industry. The Internet has made access to material that was once reserved for adult bookstores and required real effort to obtain easily accessible to just about anyone who wants it. It is an addiction that ruins the lives of millions of men each year and countless marriages as well. Even Christian men are not immune to the destructive power of pornography. For those who struggle with pornography, simply deciding one day that you're not going to look at any more is not enough. In order to successfully free yourself from its grip requires not just breaking a habit but developing an entirely new way of thinking. It involves a renewing of your mind to focus on the things of God rather than things of the flesh.

Daniel Henderson's book Think Before You Look: Avoiding the Consequences of Secret Temptation is an invaluable resource in the fight against pornography and helps those affected by it to renew their minds through the study of God's word. In the book, Henderson presents forty reasons to avoid the temptation of pornography. Each segment focuses on one particular biblical truth and gives the reader practical help for fighting the battle. Although I had no problem reading the entire book at once, it's true power is when it is used almost as a devotional, reflecting on each of the forty truths one at a time. Henderson also does not talk down to the reader. He aproaches the issue as one who has counseled numerous individuals who struggle with this issue. He also writes as one who has a passion for seeing men be freed from the evil grip of pornography.

For any man, single or married, Think Before You Look is a terrific resource that you will want to have in your library. Given the culture we live in where sex is so much a part of what we see and hear, men need to be on guard against all kinds of temptation. This book will give you the weapons you need to fight the battle.

This book was provided to me by Living Ink Books through Mind and Media. No compensation was received for this review apart from the book.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

One More Christmas Story

As we wind down our celebration of Christmas, here is one final story worth reading. As I read it, I could not help but think of the many young men and women who are away from home this Christmas to ensure that we all can celebrate in safety and security.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The True Meaning of Christmas

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-20

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"I Just Want A Snuggle"

I am fortunate to be able to work at home. The blessing is that I can see my family just about anytime I want to. The downside is sometimes family interrupts me while I am trying to work. But the other day I had an interruption that I was only too glad to receive. My youngest daughter, who is 8, came in and said "I just want a snuggle". Every once in a while she'll ask me to just give her a big hug. It's her way of knowing that she is loved. It would have been easy for me to tell her I was too busy or that I had other things I needed to do. But at that moment, there was nothing more important than just giving her a hug.

So often we become busy (and Dads especially have to fight against the pull of our jobs on our time) that we neglect the simple moments that God gives us to remind our children how much we love them. Take time to give your children a hug now and then. More importantly, make sure that they are getting to spend plenty of time with you. Before you know it, they'll be grown up and gone.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Message for Homeschool Dads

Still looking for that perfect gift for your homeschooling wife? How about a subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine? It's the perfect way to encourage your wife in her efforts to educate your children. Each issue is packed with practical advice, features, and reviews of new products all written by fellow homeschoolers.

You can also take advantage of their buy one, get one free Christmas special. Purchase a new two-year subscription and get a one-year subscription for a friend for free. In addition, both you and your friend will receive 19 free homeschool gifts. Already a subscriber? If you renew now for two years you'll get a special gift plus a free one-year subscription and 19 free gifts for a friend.

A gift of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is the perfect way to show your wife how much you appreciate her hard work in teaching your children. Your whole family will benefit from this wonderful magazine.

Note: The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has provided me with a complimentary subscription as compensation for this post.

Total Truth Study Guide Available

Nancy Pearcey has just made the study guide for her book Total Truth available on her website for free. Click here to download the study guide. (Hat tip: Mind and Media)

To find out more about the book, you can read my review.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Book Review: Hedges

Divorce. Infidelity. Proliferation of pornography. A sexualized culture that no longer recognizes propriety as something of value. Each one of these forces bombards many a married man tempting him to cast aside his vows in exchange for a fleeting moment of pleasure. How can any man who is seriously committed to protecting their marriage stand up against the seemingly endless barrage of temptations hurled at him?

Thankfully, Jerry Jenkins has updated and republished his classic book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It. Specifically geared towards men, this is a very practical book that encourages husbands to take very deliberate steps to protect themselves from sexual temptation.

As Jenkins points out in his introduction, the biblical response to temptation is to flee. With temptation all around us it is easy to think we need to hang in there and fight against it.
But temptations can often be so subtle that they can trip us up before we know it. That's why we need "hedges": groud rules for how we interact with the opposite sex that protect ourselves, our marriages, our employers, and our churches.

This is not a Puritan list of rules to follow. Rather, Jenkins draws on his own life experience as well as the experiences (both positive and negative) of numerous couples he has known and counseled to demonstrate the real dangers that marriages face in light of today's over-sexed culture and practical steps that husbands can take to protect themselves. Although he does not recommend implementing every single one of his own hedges, most readers will find that his hedges are really good hedges to make their own.

This edition of the book includes a bonus DVD featuring a lecture by Jenkins and is a wonderful supplement to the book.

This is a book that every man needs to own and to read over and over again. By applying the simple principles contained in this book you will be going a long way towards protecting your marriage from the temptation of infidelity and sexual sin.

This book was provided to me by Crossway through Mind and Media. No compesation was received for this review apart from the book.

Which Narnia Character Are You?

"As Aslan, you are brave, noble and have an astute awareness of morality. You may be quick to anger at times, but you have a heart of gold, and are respected greatly among your peers."

To find out which character you are, click here to take the quiz.

Hat tip: AllThings2All.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Vote for the Homeschool Blog Awards

The first Homeschool Blog Award nominations have been announced. Yours truly was fortunate enough to be nominated in the Best Homeschooling Dad Blog category. Be sure to stop by and vote for all your favorite blogs. Voting ends December 26th.

Narnia: Box Office Savior?

With the huge opening weekend success of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the film appears to becoming a year-end blessing for an otherwise dismal year at the movies:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe helped melt a box office in winter. With a dose of broadly appealing fantasy based on C.S. Lewis' famous novel, overall business was up 15 percent from the comparable weekend last year, and, with King Kong looming, 2005 is poised to end on a high note despite being the first down box office year since 1991.

Playing on about 6,800 screens across 3,616 locations, Narnia drummed up $65.6 million, exceeding industry expectations in the $50 million range. The opening was the second-biggest ever for December behind The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's $72.8 million and the third best start for distributor Buena Vista, behind The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

The same report goes on to note that the content of the film had a lot to do with this past weekend's success:

Saturday exit polls by Buena Vista indicated that families made up 53 percent of Narnia's audience, and that 55 percent of moviegoers were under 25 years old and 52 percent were male. Audiences generally liked the picture, grading it an "A+" in CinemaScore's opening night surveys, which also showed that the "subject matter" was by far the top reason people saw the movie.

It is this same desire for more family-friendly content that drove Philip Anschutz (owner of Walden Media which produced Narnia) to start his own film companies with his own money. The American Enterprise has a terrific profile of Anschutz entitled "Movie Messiah" that details the billionaire's journey in the world of movie making (Hat tip: C-Log). If the success of Narnia is any indication, Anschutz's Walden Media has figured out how to succeed in Hollywood. If the rest of Hollywood starts to take notice that it's the content of the movie that matters as much as the story being told then perhaps there is hope for the movie industry after all.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Book Review: Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

What do sex and Jesus Christ have to do with each other? When we think about Jesus are we really thinking about sex at the same time? Or vice versa? The answer is most likely no. However, according to John Piper, the two are closely linked. In fact, he makes the point this way in the opening chapter of Sex and the Supremacy of Christ:

"I have two simple and weighty points to make. I think everything in this book will be the explanation and application of these two points. The first is that sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully. And the second is that knowing God in Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality. I use the phrase "God in Christ" to signal at the outset that I am going to move back and forth between God and Christ because the biblical assumption of this book is that Christ is God.

Now to state the two points again, this time negatively, in the first place all misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ. And, in the second place, all misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ.

Or to put it one more way: all sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, but the true knowlege of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption."

(page 26, emphasis in original)

The subsequent chapters in the book explore these two basic points from a number of different angles: from the man's perspective, from the woman's perspective, from a historical perspective, and examining the issue in light of distortions that naturally occur because of sexual sin.

The book is essentially a compilation of the speeches given at the 2004 Desiring God National Conference and even includes a DVD with the various addresses. Each contributor is clearly knowledgeable on their individual subject and tackles their issue quite well.

However, the fact that there are twelve different contributors, each with their own unique style, makes it a little difficult to read straight through the book. This is not necessarily the type of book you would want to sit down and just read through. Instead, it's greatest asset is as a resource on the topic of sex and our relationship to Christ. Pastors and teachers will especially appreciate the presentation as a resource to use in their own teaching endeavors. My recommendation is for anyone who wants to read the book to be prepared to take their time and take each chapter one at a time spending sufficient time with each to fully absorb the material that is being presented.

This book was provided to me for review by Mind and Media through Crossway, publishers of the book. No other compensation has been received for this review.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Who is C. S. Lewis?

While anticipation is building for Friday's release of the movie adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, much attention has been focused on the man behind the magic, C. S. Lewis. Christianity Today and Christian History Magazine both have several terrific articles that provide keen insight into the man who is so revered by evangelicals:

Why Lewis is someone every Christian should know.

Interesting and unusal facts about Lewis.

A look into the mind of C. S. Lewis.

And his famous friendship with J. R. R. Tolkein.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Weblog Awards 2005

The 2005 Weblog Award nominations have been announced and several of my fellow Mind and Media reviewers have been nominated for awards:

Mind and Media has been nominated in the Best Business Blog Category.

Heather from Mom2MomConnection has been nominated in the Best Blog Design Category.

Matt from Mere Orthodoxy has received a nomination in the Best Religious Blog Category. So has new reviewer Jay Adkins.

And friend of this blog Catez Stevens of AllThings2All has been nominated in the Best Australia or New Zealand Blog.

Voting continues through December 15th. You can vote once per day per category. Be sure to stop by and vote for your favorite blog.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Homeschool Blog Awards

Spunky Homeschool is sponsoring the first Homeschool Blog Awards. Stop by and nominate your favorite homeschool blog in any of the following categories:

Best Homeschooling Mom Blog
Best Homeschooling Dad Blog
Best Homeschooling Family blog
Best Homeschooling Teen blog
Best Informational Homeschool blog
Best Inspirational Homeschool blog
Best Homeschooling Humor blog
Best Team / Group Homeschool Blog
Best Homeschool Curriculum / Business Blog
Best Homeschool Blog Template Design
Best Canadian Homeschool Blog
Best International Homeschool Blog
Best Current Events Homeschool Blog
Best Homeschool Arts Blog
Best Homeschool Photo Blog

Spunky will be receiving nominations until December 11th. Make sure to stop by and nominate your favorite blog!