Friday, May 29, 2009

On the Purpose of Ten Commandments Monuments

Over the past few months I've had a lot of media people asking me for an opinion on the legality of erecting a Ten Commandments monument at the state capitol. I usually refer them to the newsletter I wrote about the Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse lawn in Haskell County.

Yesterday I received a query that differs from those I have received in the past. This inquirer asks, "Is the real purpose [of the monument] to promote the teachings of the Ten Commandments or to simply recognize what some would say is the partial underpinning of U.S. law?"

The question derives from assertions by proponents of the bill authorizing the erection of the monument that they merely desire to memorialize the historical foundation for the American system of law and justice.

I believe such assertions exemplify the kind of subterfuge in which some Christian Nationalists are willing to engage to secure a fig leaf of legality for displaying a monument endorsing a text from sacred scripture on public property. Proving that, however, is difficult as long as Christian Nationalists stick to their story and persist in lying about having no religious motivation for erecting the monuments.

If all else fails, there is a way to discover how serious our legislators are about memorializing the historical foundations for our system of law. We will know they are serious when they authorize monuments to the code of Hammurabi, to English Common Law, and to the Bill of Rights to stand side-by-side with the one for the Ten Commandments.

I'd just settle for a monument to the Bill of Rights where the first right of every American is defined as being governed by legislators who respect the prohibition against making laws respecting the establishment of religion:
"Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof. . ."

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