By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Senate on Tuesday approved a bill by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, that would authorize a state referendum on whether to allow the display of the Ten Commandments on public property and public schools — a proposal he says may prevent some mass shootings.
The bill passed the Legislature’s upper chamber by a vote of 23 to 3 after Dial told lawmakers that displaying the Ten Commandments might dissuade some school shooters from carrying out an attack.
“I believe that if you had the Ten Commandments posted in a prominent place in school, it has the possibility to prohibit some student from taking action to kill other students,” Dial said.
The East Alabama senator’s comments come just a few weeks after a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 students and educators at Parkland High School in southern Florida.
“If this bill stops one school shooting in Alabama, just one, then it’s worth the time and effort we’re putting into it,” Dial said.
The bill calls for a constitutional amendment to approve the displays and would require a statewide vote on November’s general election ballot.
Several Democrats voted against the measure, and Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, said he believes displaying religious symbols on public grounds is a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
“While I understand where you’re going, I just have a problem with wanting to put into the Constitution — when we have a right to freedom of religion in this state and in this country — one sect or a religion and not allow all others,” Singleton said.
The proposed amendment would require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in an educational or historical manner that “complies with constitutional requirements.”
Dial moved to table an amendment to the legislation from Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, that would have allowed other religious symbols from other faiths to be displayed on public property too.
Coleman-Madison’s proposal gained approval in a Senate committee earlier this month but died with a floor vote on Tuesday.
“I’m Christian, and I believe in the Ten Commandments. But just like I believe in the Second Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment and the Thirteenth Amendment, I want to believe in the First Amendment also in terms of the freedoms that we give each other,” Singleton said.
The amendment would prohibit state funds from being used to defend the measure in court.
The proposal will now move to the Alabama House of Representatives.
Dial has proposed the bill for several years. It’s never made it out of both chambers of the Legislature. Last year, it died in the House after the Senate voted 23 to 7.