"At first glance, the question before this court seems as clear as the night sky over Bethlehem: "Is Everett's Ten Commandments monument...
“At first glance, the question before this court seems as clear as the night sky over Bethlehem:
“Is Everett’s Ten Commandments monument a religious symbol that should be banned from the public square? “Yet I, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik of Seattle, find myself as lost as the wandering Israelites.
“Since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the law of the land Monday, it’s up to me to decide the fate of Everett’s stone transcription of God’s talk with Moses.
“But it’s like the Supremes were speaking in tongues!
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“In one case, they said the commandments are sacred and have no place inside Kentucky courtrooms. In another they said they’re historical and welcome on the grounds of the Texas Capitol.
“Is this like one of Jesus’ parables, where it’s supposed to make no sense?
“Now I’ve heard how Everett’s lawyers interpret this. They say their monument is out of doors, so that means they can keep it. Somehow I doubt the high court meant we can mix church and state as long as we do it in the rain.
“Anyway, I read the fiery fulmination of Scalia and the godless gibbering of Stevens. Amid the babble I found succor in two words from that somnambulant Souter: ‘Context matters,’ he droned.
“He meant you gotta see it for yourself. So yesterday I drove up to Everett. I stood before the monument. I turned and gazed upon Everett.
“Now I see it clearly.
“First, this monument isn’t religious dogma. It’s American kitsch. It’s got one of those creepy ‘Eyes of Providence,’ like on the dollar bill. And one of those hellbent eagles gripping the American flag.
“Yes, it says ‘I am the LORD thy God’ and ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me,’ etc. But the faux tablet look is so amateur I was sure a wild-eyed Charlton Heston was about to stagger from the bushes and try to haul it away.
“Speaking of which, did you know that Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille teamed with the Fraternal Order of Eagles to put these giant tchotchkes around the nation? Ostensibly it was to improve our youth. It doubled as an ingenious publicity stunt for DeMille’s movie, ‘The Ten Commandments.’
“Cheesy as it is, the monument is nevertheless a bright spot in one of the most soulless and contrived civic plazas I’ve ever visited. What’s with that Everett Events Center? I know it’s supposed to be a ship, but it sure says ‘airplane hangar with utility poles’ to me.
“I find, therefore, that Everett’s monument is not a government endorsement of religion. It is government endorsing bad taste as it sells out to a Hollywood conglomerate on a marketing campaign.
“And what, in the end, could be more American than that?
“Still, to make the monument’s meaning clearer, I order the city to construct a nearby wax likeness of Heston, I mean Moses. The revenue from NRA tour groups ought to recoup the $100,000 squandered by the city on this case to date.
“And now, this court is adjourned. So let it be written. So let it be done.”
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.