Social & Domestic Issues

Defending the Ten Commandments’ Display

Justice Roy S. Moore lost his battle, with his November 13 removal from office by an Alabama judicial ethics panel. Things are back to normal on the contemporary American church-state battleground.

The celebrated Ten Commandments monument has been removed from the Alabama state courthouse. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Moore was first suspended, then ousted for defying a federal court order censoring the display of the Commandments in his courthouse.

Chalk up another victory for liberal judicial activism and the un-American Civil Libertines Union of God-haters. These are radicals who manipulate the legal system, who count on conservatives’ respect for the rule of law and order, to infringe further and further on the right of the majority to exercise self-government and the very rights afforded them under their U.S. Constitution.

The liberals who believe dogmatically in a “living Constitution” are remaking America and American jurisprudence in their own image-and it’s an ugly, grotesque thing.

Their America has expunged from sight every public reference to or representation of anything in any way related to the majority’s Christian faith or the nation’s undeniable Judeo-Christian heritage. Their America punishes the free exercise of certain religions (Christianity), censors free speech of certain religious beliefs or thoughts (Christian ones) and has transformed the original intent of Jefferson’s phrase “a wall of separation” between church and state (which occurred in a private letter and appears no where in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence) into an Iron Curtain as godless as godless communism ever was.

In short, the church-state jurisprudence of today’s radicals bears no resemblance whatsoever to the views of the Founding Fathers. This is particularly so where the Ten Commandments are concerned.

The Founders would never have contemplated whether it is constitutional to display the Ten Commandments in public places, including schools and courthouses. It never would have occurred to them that such a question should be litigated because of the self-evident answer: The Ten Commandments are in effect the foundation of our laws. Of course the Commandments should be displayed-and recited and taught.

Now that the Alabama standoff is concluded, we should consider the public display of the Ten Commandments-absent the personalities in a particular case, the particular facts involved, the legal maneuvers, the raising of the stakes over whether a particular display stays or goes.

First, the Ten Commandments are the basis of many of the laws on the books in America today. They were codified in the American colonies. They have remained at the core of state and federal laws throughout our history.

American historian David Barton has written, “Aside from the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, it is difficult to argue that there is any single work that has had a greater or more far-reaching impact on four centuries of American life, law, and culture than the Decalogue. For this reason alone, the Decalogue merits display.”

Barton has noted that “the Rhode Island Colony was the only one of the thirteen colonies that did not have civil laws derived from the first four divine laws-the so-called first ‘tablet.’ Significantly, every other early American colony incorporated the entire Decalogue into its own civil code of laws” (emphasis in original).

We have laws against murder, stealing, perjury. What do the liberals fear from having people see the historical roots of such statutes?

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court said in the 1844 case of Vidal v. Girard‘s Executors that American schools must teach students the biblical commands. In the court’s opinion (to which Madison appointee and constitutional authority Justice Joseph Story was party), “The purest principles of morality are to be taught. Where are they found? . . . [T]he Bible.”

Thus, it’s hard to argue that simply displaying the Ten Commandments in public venues approaches anything that the authors of the Constitution and Bill of Rights would have considered a legal violation.

Second, understanding the connection between the Ten Commandments and American law and history helps build better citizens.

In The Roots of American Order, conservative intellectual Russell Kirk said, “[T]he moral order of [ancient] Israel, the sanctuary of the soul, has transcended time and circumstances. It lives in the modern world. The Bible is the record of the growth of that moral order. Although America is no Bible state, without some knowledge of the Bible the fabric of American order cannot be understood tolerably well.”

Kirk noted how the Ten Commandments influenced America and our laws. “[F]rom Israel, even more than from the Roman juris-consults, America inherited an understanding of the sanctity of law. Certain root principles of justice exist, arising from the nature which God has conferred upon man; law is a means for realizing those principles, so far as we can.”

If Americans remain ignorant of the fundamental influence of the Ten Commandments on this nation’s law, order and culture, they will be retarded in their citizenship. They will fail to appreciate the things that are necessary to bind us together as a people, making us out of many into one.

The display of the Commandments can only help enlighten the American populace.

Third, the Ten Commandments’ display in public buildings doesn’t approach the establishment of religion that liberals so fear, even by their definition.

The Commandments were given to ancient Israel and are contained in the Jewish Scripture and the Christian Old Testament. So, what religion is display of the Ten Commandments supposed to be establishing? Judaism? Christianity?

It can’t be establishing both religions simultaneously. A major theological difference separates Judaism and Christianity over whether Jesus was the promised Messiah or not. This fundamental difference makes these two religions distinct in practice, belief and culture.

Rather than litigate each of the untold thousands of Ten Commandments found in public buildings around the country, one after another, we should come to an agreement. The Ten Commandments are directly linked to American law and history. They are beneficial to the civic well-being of the nation, apart from their religious meaning to Christians and Jews. Their public display establishes no religion as the official religion of the United States.

It is past time to re-establish self-government and constitutional sanity. Acknowledging the connection and benefit of the Ten Commandments to our nation’s public life is the perfect place to start.


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