Published Online: September 6, 2000
Published in Print: September 6, 2000, as Take Note

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Commanding Covers: As the saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover. But a Chicago-based Christian television network hopes you'll be able to judge some students by the covers of their books.

Total Living Network launched a campaign in August to distribute—through churches, ministers, and community organizations—book covers that list the Ten Commandments on the front and quotations from such notable people as Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and John F. Kennedy on the back.

"We are trying to motivate children to become better citizens and learn how to apply what is on the covers to their lives," said Debra Hall, the network's public relations officer.

Paul G. Vallas, the chief executive officer of the Chicago public schools, said in a press release that he "enthusiastically supports the concept of book covers that display the Ten Commandments."

That comment has alarmed some advocates for the separation of church and state.

"We have a problem with a government entity endorsing religion, which of course is unconstitutional," said Jan Czarnik, the Chicago director of the People for the American Way Foundation, a Washington advocacy group. But Mr. Vallas' endorsement did not appear to raise hackles at another watchdog organization.

"The kids have a right to use them if they want to, or throw them away if they want to," said Jay Miller, the executive director of the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union.

—Michelle Galley

Vol. 20, Issue 1, Page 3

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