GREELEY, Colo. — When Richard Roth isn’t running his auto parts store, taking care of his family or being active in his parish, he’s raising funds for the Ten Commandments.
Roth spends 25 to 30 hours a week on his Knights of Columbus council’s drive to help Project Moses erect Ten Commandments monuments and plaques in Greeley, Colo.
Project Moses, founded in 2002 by Kansas businessman John Menghini Sr., is a national non-profit organization working to restore respect for the Ten Commandments by placing monuments on publicly seen yet private, property throughout the United States. Most of the monuments are placed on church grounds. Much of the organization’s resources and manpower come from Knights of Columbus councils. Roth heard about Project Moses when Executive Director Joe Worthing spoke to the Colorado state Knights of Columbus convention.
“We’ve all learned the Ten Commandments as children,” said Roth. “But most people take them for granted. Project Moses brings back the true meaning of and a passion for the Ten Commandments. If we all had that same passion and understood the meaning of the Ten Commandments, we’d have a better society, a better country.”
In the fall of 2006, the campaign began to raise the $15,000 necessary to place monuments on the properties of all three Greeley parishes. Each monument is made of marble from Mount Sinai and weighs 950 pounds. Knowing that involving the parishioners would make the efforts more successful and the monuments more appreciated, council members devised a pledge system in which a Ten Commandments plaque would be given for each pledge of $30 or more. Today, there are 869 such plaques hanging in Greeley homes.
“This is a fabulous offshoot from what we were really trying to accomplish,” Roth added. “I was shocked. The response was overwhelming even in the poorer areas. Now there are adults and children, individuals and families all over the community enjoying these plaques and appreciating the Ten Commandments.”
Project Moses began as an effort to counteract the movement to remove Ten Commandments plaques and monuments from government property in a string of lawsuits initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union spanning the past two decades. The response has been tremendous in other areas of the country, too. According to Project Moses, the organization has erected 250 monuments in 34 states to date — more in 30 months than the ACLU has removed through litigation in the last 30 years.
The organization’s next goal is to construct the National Judeo-Christian Memorial to Moses and the Ten Commandments — similar in scope to the Jefferson Memorial — on private property near the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
ACLU officials did not respond to Register inquiries for this story. The ACLU’s mission is to protect the fundamental freedoms of United States citizens as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, its website states. In regard to the funding and display of religious symbols on government property, the ACLU “works to ensure that governments, school boards, and legislatures do not become involved in deciding which religious beliefs should be promoted or in spending taxpayer dollars to support religious activities and symbols,” the site says.
“The basic idea,” said Ave Maria law professor Richard Myers, “is that the government shouldn’t endorse a particular religion. Those who do not practice that religion could feel like they are not full members of the society. It gives the appearance that the government is taking sides.”
However, Myers explained, in the cases of Ten Commandments displays on government property, there was no real coercion involved. The Commandments were posted to look at or not, as opposed to Scripture readings or prayers said in public institutions.
The ACLU lawsuits to remove the Decalogue from government properties moved groups like Project Moses to defend a symbol they feel is part of our culture and heritage.
“When a symbol expresses more than a symbolic meaning,” said Father Richard Neuhaus, First Things editor in chief, “it becomes imperative to offer resistance. Such symbols [as the Ten Commandments] represent the beliefs of our culture, who we are as a people and who we intend to be in the future.”
That’s why Knights of Columbus Council 6144 member John Garrity spearheaded the effort to install a Ten Commandments monument on the property of Sacred Heart Parish in New Carlisle, Ohio.
Garrity is quick to point out that other denominations are interested in Project Moses and the Ten Commandments monuments.
“If that’s what God gave Moses on Mount Sinai, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Follow these [commandments] and we won’t have problems. The Ten Commandments are the roadmap to get this country back on track.”
The monument rests in a park-like setting on a main road, and it has become an attraction for the whole city. According to Sacred Heart pastor Father Mike Bidwell, more people come to visit that area than ever before.
“We live in a very uncertain world,” he said. “The Ten Commandments are an undeniable code of living that are not just etched in stone, but etched in our hearts. Project Moses provides a little glimmer of that, and people remember.”
Marge Fenelon is based in