Madison County Opinion...

 May 9, 2001

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
May 9, 2001

Frankly Speaking

Church and state separation not in Constitution
The first line in the Bill of Rights reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Please notice that the phrase "separation of church and state" is nowhere to be found in the Constitution or any of the amendments.
What effect does the constitutional prohibition of Congress to establish a religion have on Madison County's Board of Commissioners? Does their vote to support and display the Ten Commandments violate this principle?
Although it is easy to argue both sides, I tend to come down on the side of the board.
The primary purpose for the clause prohibiting Congress from establishing a religion came about as a result of policies of certain Northern colonies who placed a mandatory tax on the citizens to support a favored church, or group of churches. James Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights, had opposed an "assessment bill" in Virginia that would have provided taxes for all churches. The amendment was intended to prevent Congress from supporting one religion over others.
The key part of the First Amendment that applies to the board's decision is concluding phrase, "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In my opinion, court decisions or congressional legislation prohibiting the display of the Ten Commandments or disallowing voluntary prayer in school or at school events fall under this clause.
If the Ten Commandments are on a plaque on the walls of a courthouse, passers-by have the right to read them, or to ignore them. They are not compelled to adhere to the teachings the document contains. By recognizing the existence of "almighty God," the board of commissioners is doing nothing more than Congress does by hiring chaplains to provide religious guidance to our Senators and Congressmen. The Ten Commandments make up one of the oldest codes of law known to man.
They were designed to regulate the conduct and attitudes of people to their neighbors, their families and their church. They set out basic rules of conduct. Without these rules, our culture would be in shambles.
There would be no law and order. There would be no respect for personal safety or property. No one would respect the bonds of family. People would think nothing of defiling a place of worship.
Come to think of it, that is just what we have today. Every time you pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV you are presented with stories about violations of the commandments. Our children are not being taught to respect other people, not even their own parents. They think nothing of defacing or destroying public or private property. They ridicule those who support God's law.
It is a good thing to place the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall. Now, if we can just find someone who can explain them to our children.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at His e-mail address is






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By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
May 9, 2001

A Moment with Margie

For Mother's Day
Mother's Day is this Sunday, and although my mother is no longer alive, I still think of her often.
She was a driving force for the first 21 years of my life - and she still is today. Many of the decisions I make are based on things I learned from her. I frequently think of what Mama would say about this or that or what she would do if she were here.
I miss climbing into bed with her and crying my eyes out over a problem.
I just miss her.
But there have also been a number of other women who have been maternal figures to me.
There was of course, my Aunt Donnie, whom I've written about several times already.
Then there was my friend Carlene.
Carlene was managing editor of the Journal for a number of years and she was so much more to me than "my boss." I depended on her for advice, consolation and to just "be there." It has been four years this month since she passed away, but I still miss her terribly.
She had lost a daughter just my age, so I think we both kind of fulfilled a need for each other.
Then there is Sybil, or as my kids call her, "Grandma Sybil."
I met Sybil years ago when I was working part-time at a Sky City Department Store while going to college. I worked in the jewelry department and Sybil worked next door in ladies' wear.
We became close friends during that time.
After Mama died, Sybil, who knew my husband Charles and I didn't have much close family around (Charles' parents were also deceased), invited us to have Christmas dinner with her family.
That, as they say, was "the start of something big." We soon got to know her and her husband "Shorty's" large family (she's a mother of six) and consider them our own.
I guess we were adopted by the whole family.
Before our kids were born, we spent a lot of late nights playing cards or just hanging out with Sybil and Shorty. We all four enjoyed staying up late (back then, anyway) and would often play cards until the wee hours of the morning and then head out to an all-night restaurant for breakfast.
We've celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, births and holidays together. We've suffered through deaths and some hard times together.
Sybil was at the hospital when both my children were born - she was there to beam at their newborn faces, as proud as any grandmother.
Although not tied to them by blood, she has always considered them her grandchildren and has been there for all the "important moments" of their lives.
For that, and for so much more, I am eternally grateful to my friend Sybil, who has meant and continues to mean so much to me, my husband and my children.
I love you, Sybil Walker.
Happy Mother's Day from one of your many adopted kids.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.
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