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Ten Commandments are God's absolutes, not law

Author: Glenn Roberts Jr.

The American Civil Liberties Union has won its biggest legal battle - to erase Christianity from everyday life - by forcing the removal of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore's two-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the State House.

Justice Moore at first had refused a federal district court order to remove the "offensive" object that had been on display for two years. Proponents contend that courthouses are proper venues to focus attention on the Ten Commandments inasmuch as they are the "foundation of our law." But are they?

The Ten Commandments, brought down twice from Mount Sinai by Moses (Exodus 20:2-17 and 34:12-26), are suitable for display anywhere, anytime as a model for our behavior - even in courthouses.

Biblical scholars remind us that the first set of commandment tablets, most often referenced, was destroyed by Moses in a rage because he found many of his people worshipping a golden bull idol constructed while he was conferring with God.

A riot ensued, and Moses ordered his tribesmen to kill 3,000 idolaters. God summoned Moses for a second set of commandments, and these are considerably different from the first. This first set is more pertinent. However, just three of its commandments are embedded in modern law - as they were in ancient preceding codes:

Thou shall not kill. (Note: the correct word is murder. LL)
Thou shall not steal.
Thou shall not bear false witness (in a trial of law).

Three other commandments bear on interpersonal relationships:
Honor thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not covet (begrudge) anything belonging to thy neighbor.

The largest number of commandments - the first four and presumably the most important - are specifically religious in that they deal with man's relationship with God:

I am the Lord, thy God. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. Thou shalt not make any graven (artificial) image of anything in heaven ... or bow down to them (idolatry).

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

No one but atheists and ACLU troublemakers object to displaying the Judeo-Christian commandments in courthouses. Though the holy instructions may not be totally germane to everyday law, the world would be a better place if fault-finders would periodically review and apply them.

Consider: Recognition of one God abounds. Congress opens each day with prayer. A representation of Moses holding the "tablets of commandments'' adorns the U.S. Supreme Court Building. Justices there open deliberations with, "God bless this honorable court. We print "In God We Trust" on our currency.

In view of the foregoing, a reasonable conclusion is that public recognition of God is appropriate, but not necessarily via the Ten Commandments. The latter merit public display in many venues, but not necessarily in courts of law that interpret narrowly focused, selfish matters. There's nothing wrong with courtroom displays of the Commandments, but there's no strong historical basis for it.

A statue of blindfolded Justice holding aloft her balance scale would be a more appropriate reminder of the seriousness of the place. The Ten Commandments mostly relate to moral and cultural matters - things that tons of laws cannot regulate. Jesus best summed up the Commandments: "Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself."

Regarding the ongoing controversy over "separation of church and state," Thomas Jefferson, in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, confirmed a "wall of separation" between church and state. Jefferson, however, pointed out that the "wall" was only "one-way" with the state not endorsing a given religion, but nevertheless allowing religion to penetrate the wall and influence the affairs of state.

Thus the ACLU and other liberals have no license to dump on evangelical Christians. Polls show about 46 percent describing themselves as "born again" Christians with 77 percent of the population in favor of retaining Judge Moore's monument. In a representative democracy, the majority rules. The ACLU has won the battle, but not the war.

Glenn Roberts Jr. is a retired businessman who lives in Big Stone Gap. E-mail him at gerpar@mounet.com.

Date Published: September 11, 2002

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