217 years after the Bill of Rights was finally ratified and became the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, a significant percentage of the population doesn’t seem to understand, yet, what Separation of Church and State actually means. Most people understand the “Freedom of Religion” aspect of the Amendment (which doesn’t actually use that exact phrase) to mean that they have the freedom to impose their particular flavor of religion on everyone, especially on the courthouse steps. So once again, we have another bunch of probably well meaning but misguided religionuts up in arms about having another set of stone tablets removed from the front of the Haskell County (Oklahoma) Courthouse, by order of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Actually, the case was simply sent back to the District Court to enter an order consistent with the Appellate Court ruling, but the bottom line is that the Ten Commandments are, again, a governmental no-no.
[EDIT: Here’s the opinion, in case anyone wants to read it.]
This is really getting old. As usual, the ignorant elected officials, who think their religion is the cats pajamas, just can’t fathom why anyone in their right minds are against the Ten Commandments, which they say they follow, but rarely do.
The latest ruling prompted Haskell County Commissioner Mitch Worsham to say, “Whoever was the judge in this, I feel sorry for him on Judgment Day.”
Of course, Mr. Worsham is one of those religionuts who doesn’t understand that his “Judgment Day” may not be observed by any number of people who want to use the Court House every day. His viewpoint, like that of most fundamentalist Christians, is narrow, condescending, and exclusive, and as the 10th Circuit noted, the imposition of those tablets “has the primary effect of endorsing religion.” His religion in particular, but also religion in general.
We’re not talking about a small plaque on the wall next to the entrance, or a bronze tablet in the garden. No, what Haskell County tried to erect was an “…8-foot granite slab planted in the Haskell County courthouse lawn [which] makes the Ten Commandments easy to read and hard to miss from the state highway that doubles as this town’s main thoroughfare.” (Why is it that Christians always have to do things so BIG?)
And apparently the Buckle of the Bible Belt has recently passed a law that authorizes a privately funded erection of a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn at the state capitol. In light of this 10th Circuit decision, they will be looking at that a little more closely, as will the ACLU.
Like the Evolution/Creationism/Intelligent Design issue, the Ten Commandments issue has a way of evolving in order to try to skirt court rulings disfavoring it. The Courts have consistently ruled that if there is a religious intent behind the monuments, then it is a violation of the 1st Amendment to erect them. So, the proponents have taken to a new tactic of de-emphasizing the religious nature of the monuments, in favor of their “historical” significance, arguing that the Ten Commandments have played a huge role in the shaping of our laws.
That’s the rhetorical equivalent of claiming that the Intelligent Designer of all creation was an alien from another planetary system – not god. It’s a red herring, in other words. We all know that the Ten Commandments arise out of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, and that our laws presently derive little from them. Let’s be serious. How many state, local or federal laws contain requirements that you worship only one god, or admonitions against taking the Lord’s name in vain, as the First two commandments require? Since when is it illegal to covet your neighbor’s wife or his possessions, as the last two prohibit? Dishonoring your parents, not keeping the Sabbath holy, committing adultery? All legal, last I looked (though a possible grounds for divorce with regard to the last one).
That’s 70% of the commandments that have little or no bearing on our laws, and in fact at least three of them specifically force religion on you. The remaining three are based on common sense, and certainly existed long before the first book of the Bible was written. Don’t lie, steal or murder. What society would survive without those three? You don’t need Moses to come down from Mt. Sinai to tell you those three are not conducive to a stable society. What? Did the Jews, and everyone before Moses, really believe those three were OK before Moses showed up with the other seven?
The bottom line is that when god-fearing Christians decide to spend my tax money, or even spend privately raised funds, to place 10 religious based admonitions on my tax funded and maintained property, then that clearly has the primary effect of endorsing religion, because there’s really nothing else it’s endorsing.
I wish some of the local and state officials that come up with these rationalizations for forcing their religion on us had the attitude that one of the commentators to the first link had:
From a legal standpoint, I agree with the judge. It is not the job of the state to promote religion.
As a Christian, my faith in God is strong and a constant driving force in my life. Without him, I am nothing.
As an AMERICAN (and human being in general), I support the rights of others to believe as I do, believe in something else or believe in nothing at all. I will have a VOLUNTARY religious discussion with someone, but will not attempt to convert him/her OR prove the existence of God or any other deity.
There are appropriate places for this display, but on courthouse grounds is not one of them.
One’s religious beliefs should be, and are, protected by the First Amendment. A corollary to that is that those same religious beliefs, being beliefs, are personal to the individual, and should not be forced on the population as a whole.
Besides, we all know you have to be on drugs to believe that shit.