It is no secret that I love the state of Alabama – the warm and gentle people, the sweet tea with cornbread and greens, the way a cotton field smells right after it’s just been sprayed, and absolutely everything else about it. I especially love the laughter, be it at an Auburn tailgate party or on the beach down in Gulf Shores, so please understand I’m not demeaning anyone when I share some comments that were made earlier this week during a particular session of the state legislature in Montgomery.
The House debated for approximately two hours on Wednesday before the assembly voted 77-19 in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in schools and public buildings when “mixed with other historical and educational documents.”
For the record, Alabama lawmakers have proposed nine similar bills in just the current four-year term. The commandments issue has been a trigger point in state politics in recent years, most particularly since 2003 when Roy Moore, now Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, fought a legal battle to post the commandments in an Etowah County courtroom.
What you are getting ready to read are actual comments that were made as the amendment was being discussed and, believe me, this is just too delicious to ignore!
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* -- “School shootings, patricide and matricide are due to the Ten Commandments not being displayed in schools and other government buildings.” – Rep. DuWayne Bridges (R-Valley), a white grandfather of eight who owns Bridges Travel Plaza and Western Wear in Cussetta (about 10 miles from Auburn on I-85.)
* -- "Jesus himself said feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are nekkid." – Rep. Darrio Melton, D-Selma, a black father of two who has a Masters in Divinity from Emory in Atlanta.
* -- “People who believe in Mohammed practice ‘Muslimism.’" – Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, a 77-year-old black mathematics professor who is a retired school administrator.
* -- “The 10th Amendment was adopted before the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea because Moses didn't get to cross the Red Sea.” – Rep. Bridges responding to a question from Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery.
* -- "Love thy neighbor" is one of the Ten Commandments.” – Rep. Bridges.
* -- “’Love thy neighbor’ is not one of the Ten Commandments but has something to do with coveting.” Rep. Bridges, correcting himself a few minutes later.
* -- “’Adultery’ means having sex with someone you hadn't got any business having sex with." – Rep. Holmes, a black member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference who has multiple Masters degrees.
* -- “Rep. Alvin Holmes is the only member of the Alabama House who has abided by all the Ten Commandments.” – Rep. Holmes
* -- "Two thousand fourteen years ago, and he was 33 before that." – Rep. Bridges on when Jesus was born.
* -- “The annotation "AD" stands for ‘after death,’ (not Anno Domini).” – Rep. Bridges.
* -- “Before they bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, ‘Bull’ Connor and them had a prayer.” – Rep. Holmes. (Bull Connor, who died in 1973, was the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham who ordered attack dogs to be unleashed on civil rights protesters in the 1960s.)
* -- “Bull Connor and the others who bombed the church were never arrested and now they're in hell.” – Rep. Holmes.
* -- “Alabama State University's baseball team beat Auburn's baseball team in a practice game last night.” – Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, the black Chief Operating Officer of Alabama State University asking whether the lack of attention to the game was a violation of the Ten Commandments.
* -- “A lot of the Auburn baseball players must have had the flu.” – House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn after telling Rep. Knight, “You're stretching to make this germane." Hubbard, white and the Chairman of the Republican Party in Alabama, was once a prominent member of Auburn’s athletic department and is married to Dr. Susan Hubbard, a Professor and Associate Dean in Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences.
* -- “This country was founded on Godly principles and other people who come here from other places aren't going to change that.” – Rep. Bridges.
* -- "Fifty two of the 55 founders of the Constitution were active members in orthodox churches in the colonies." – Rep. Bridges.
* -- "Moses and the law, they had their day, but this is a new day and it is brought on by the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Rep. George Bandy, D-Opelika, a black who is pastor of the St. James Missionary Baptist Church there.
* -- “Rep. John Rogers would rather adjourn for lunch than finish this debate now.” – Rep. John Rogers, a black professional photographer, public relations consultant and Director of Minority Affairs for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
* -- “Rep. Bridges has a bad memory and that's why God put the Ten Commandments in the Bible twice.” – Rep. Bridges.
* -- “Rep. Bridges didn't include John 3:16 in the amendment because not everybody believes in Jesus Christ.” – Rep. Bridges, opposing an amendment from Rep. Bandy to add John 3:16 to the bill.
* -- “If pressed, the Alabama Legislature will table John 3:16 by a vote of 54-32.” Rep. Bandy suggested John 3:16 in addition to the commandments "to prepare those that read it to be able to keep it."
* -- "Who wrote the Ten Commandments?" – Rep. Holmes.
* -- “Moses wrote them … God wrote it and Moses was there. God wrote the Ten Commandments." – Rep. Bridges.
* -- “Voting for the Ten Commandments puts souls in peril because ‘we are voting against what can save the soul of a believer.’ – Rep. Bandy.
* -- "The Ten Commandments really represents another religion: Judaism," – Rep. Bandy.
* -- “If we're serious about the Ten Commandments, why not just put up the one commandment Jesus said was most important? ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’" – Rep. Melton.
* -- “The Ten Commandments were presented by Moses, an African who was born and lived in Africa and wasn't allowed in the Promised Land.” – Rep. Bandy.
* -- Supporters argued that “social ills, such as drug use, Facebook bullying and prison overcrowding, are due to society straying from God.”
* -- “We have prisons that we can't build fast enough. That's because we keep trying to pass our own laws." – Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, a white law-enforcement official who retired as the Assistant Sheriff of Jefferson County (Birmingham)
* -- “This issue has been tested by the courts numerous times and it has always ended the same way.” – Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, a black lawyer who, among other things, serves on the PRIDE Board of Directors, the fund-raising arm of the University of Alabama athletic department.
* -- “Part of the oath I took was to uphold the Constitution. My argument to you could be right now, I'm upholding my oath by telling you there have been numerous court decisions that do not allow the display of this document because of its religious foundation and the appearance it gives that it is state-established religion."
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Again, the Alabama House passed this week’s vote on the amendment, 77-19. The House also rejected an amendment by Rep. Holmes that would have allowed state agencies to post Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech alongside the commandments.