For what it's worth, I find the ten commandments-in-courthouse issue really frustrating. The constitutional issue is pretty clear to any reasonable reader, and the Supreme Court said pretty much the same thing yesterday that it's always said about the issue, but the politics of it remain intractable. As far as I can tell there are three basic positions (with nuances within them):
1) The historically ignorant conservative position: We know some out-of-context historical facts! Washington was religious! Read Washington's Thanksgiving address; that's religious! The phrase "separation of church and state" doesn't appear in the constitution! The founding fathers were all Christian! Why are liberals scared of democracy? Why do liberals hate people of faith?
This position rears its ugly head once again this morning's George Will column, a masterpiece of stupidity and poor reasoning.
2) The liberal position (also known as "the constitutional position"): When the constitution says "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion," that means that the government cannot establish a national religion or endorse any religion or favor any religion or pass laws that are primarily religious in purpose or get excessively entangled in religion. In short, it can't pass laws respecting the establishment of religion. That's what the constitutional says, and we want to amend the constitution repealing the 1st amendment, no amount of griping will change the basic constitutional fact.
3) The wimpy liberal position (also known as the "'I'm asking the republican party to call me unprincipled' position"): The "real liberal position" is basically correct; but majorities like the ten commandments in courtrooms, and we wish it weren't so, but we need to win elections. So therefore we're willing to sacrifice the 1st amendment to political expediency.
And ne'er shall the three meet.
To be honest, though readers of this blog know that my position is #2, I can see the seduction of #3. Because in the big picture, what's a piece of paper in the courthouse when taken against the possibility of Democratic majorities in both houses? Of course, the problem is that the trade-off is not likely to work that way.
What I find must annoying though is that the conservative position often assumes the liberal position is hostile to religion, specifically to Christianity. Such an assumption is unreasonable, unfair, and wrong, and I won't rehash the the arguments, which are well known; but surely they're designed to make the conservative base see red, as it were.
And that makes trouble with the #3 position that even if liberals start going against their principles and allowing ten commandments displays, that won't suddenly change the minds of people who are already inclined to think liberals are anti-religion, because the leadership figures who say that will just find some other thing to whine about. Indeed, even if liberals somehow, suddenly, sincerely and wholesale changed their positions, I don't think conservatives would believe it.
In other words, it's hard to know how to argue against a lie that people want to believe (and the last 4 years have been all the evidence we need for that).
All of which is a long way of saying that I'm genuinely lost in this debate. Even though the constitutional question couldn't be clearer, it's not a political issue we can win in the foreseeable future. So how do we deal with it? Just not talk about it? Ideas?