Religious Debates on the Editorial Page
by Lewis Loflin
Ten Commandments issue will be back
Editorial, Bristol Herald Courier
Sullivan County Attorney Dan Street is probably right that an Elkhart, Ind., lawsuit would have been "the perfect case" for resolving the question over whether Ten Commandments displays on public buildings are constitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court, or at least most of its justices, apparently felt that way; Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wanted to hear the case. In a highly unusual written dissent, all said they found nothing wrong with the monument, saying it "simply reflects the Ten Commandments' role in the development of our legal system."
Actually, it's probably as well that the high court sat this one out. Whether you agree with them or not, the fact that three justices jumped to that conclusion without actually hearing the case doesn't speak well for their objectivity on the matter. But eventually, someone will probably have to settle the question of whether displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings squares with the First Amendment.
As it stands, there are parts of the country where no legal barrier exists to Ten Commandments displays, like the plaque erected two years ago in the Sullivan County Courthouse. In other areas like the federal 7th Appeals Circuit, which includes Elkhart, lower-court rulings have barred such displays. Does that mean it's constitutional in certain parts of the country and not in others?
Of course, there's another issue having to do generally with other religious displays on public property and ultimately, no court can decide it for us. America is growing ever more diverse in terms of religion; even the Mountain Empire is no exception. If using public property to witness to the one group's faith could mean courting trouble, legal or otherwise, is it a good idea?
Ten Commandments issue never left, and it isn't going away
To the editor:
In regard to "The Commandments issue will be back," (Herald Courier May 31), the issue has never left. The Supreme Court tarnished its reputation with the Florida vote count fiasco, and the actions of some justices deciding this case before even hearing it reek of politics, not law.
There isn't a single biblical character or phrase anywhere in the Bill of Rights or Constitution. Our legal system is based on a variety of ideas, including the Enlightenment, French Revolution, Greek philosophy, Roman law, etc.
Nature and nature's god is the God of Deism, while Washington, Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, etc., were Deists. A lot of others were Christian, but not the "agents of intolerance" who locked the courthouse doors during the plaque dedication. The Ten Commandments are about intolerance and elitism, but America is about freedom, equality.
''Christian,'' to County Commissioner Gonce, means only selected Protestant denominations. Proof of this is the Catholic-bashing campaign being carried out in Kingsport by some apparent plaque supporters.
''In God We Trust,'' etc., came after the Civil War for political reasons. These fundamentalists treat history like they do Scripture: distort what is written to fit their agenda and ignore the rest.
The fact is, over 90 percent of evangelicals have never read the Bible. Being a Christian is acting like one, not screaming it from street corners or the courthouse stairs. The Bible really has some great ideas, and I encourage everyone to read it for him or herself, and then actually follow some of it.
America paying price for ignoring Ten Commandments and love
To the editor:
In a letter Saturday, Lewis Loflin commented on the Ten Commandments. Thinking people wonder what's happening. Family tragedies abound. National apostasy is leading to national ruin. ``Spiritual wickedness in high places'' abounds.
Politicians break their sacred vows to our state and national constitutions. Original meanings disappear. (Translation: more taxes.) Now that less emphasis is being placed on the Ten, we are building more jails. Many inmates formerly worked and paid taxes. We will pay those lost taxes and the confinement costs of the commandment-ignoring, covenant-breaking offenders. Ouch, huh?
How many of the Ten can our nation ignore with impunity? Does righteousness still ``exalt'' a nation? Is the God of Heaven reaching the limit of His forbearance? When will the boom be lowered on us? Answer: It's being lowered right now, only so slowly that our deadened perceptions hardly notice any change.
Remember the story of the frog in gently warming water. He was comfortable, so he remained right there, until he cooked to death. Should Christians stand around quietly, doing nothing, waiting for some non-biblical ``secret rapture'' to occur?
Far from it! We should realize that it is our duty to labor diligently to save others, all the while looking with strong faith to the Creator God for His help. In that regard, we commend the Haven of Rest and like places for their marvelous works of compassion, made possible by generous local residents.
One wonders if as many such facilities would have been needed, had the Ten been correctly presented, i.e., as being the end result of God's love, correctly activated in accord with the text, ``If ye love me, keep my commandments.''
Phil Morrison, MD
Christians have a duty not to keep silent about sin
To the editor:
In answer to Mr. Loflin's recent letter, the Ten Commandments show us all how we should live, and that we all come far short every day of God's perfection.
Mr. Loflin wants Christians to bury themselves, keep silent, and let sin run rampant. I'm sorry, but I can't do that. I stand against homosexuality, drinking, premarital and extramarital sex, and a host of other sins that Mr. Loflin wants us to tolerate.
The Bible plainly teaches against these sins. There are so many people not reading the Bible, and the few who are don't believe it anymore. Those very few of us born-again, Bible-believing, Bible-teaching Christians who read it and love God are going to keep on standing against sin and for right. Jesus loves everyone, but hates sin. Like him, I love all people, but I too, hate sin.
As for Dr. Morrison, who suggested that the doctrine of a secret rapture is unbiblical, Christ is coming to take believers home to Heaven. We don't know when, but He is coming. Read Matthew 24: 39-44; 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18. Use a King James Version Bible. Too many of the other versions pervert or leave out parts of important passages.
Mrs. Cynthia C.
Bring religion into politics, and it will be judged like politics
To the editor:
I appreciate Mrs. Cantor's letter "Christians have a duty not to keep silent about sin" (Herald Courier July 1). I'm glad she didn't deny anything in my letter (Herald Courier June 16). She is proof I was right about over 90 percent of fundamentalists having never read the Bible.
Dr. Morrison was correct that "secret rapture" wasn't biblical; in fact the word "rapture" doesn't exist in the KJV Bible she demands everybody read. A mystic named John Nelson Darby conceived this occult nonsense in 1827. Since the 1970s, other cults such as Christian Reconstructionism (Dominion Theology) and the Neo-Nazi Christian Identity Movement have infiltrated numerous fundamentalist churches.
Fundamentalists can talk "secret rapture" all they want, but I didn't put Sullivan County Emergency Services on "rapture" alert for Y2K or hide in my basement with a seven-year supply of toilet tissue. That's why Mr. Spangler of Bristol Virginia called it "hype."
This "sin" business has nothing to do with targeting Catholics, etc. They're being attacked for their religious beliefs only, and that's bigotry. Millions are just as moral as these Bible-thumping hypocrites without any Ten Commandments. I didn't stand before them in Blountville and claim the intent was "historical," knowing the only intent was religious
It's up to Christians to deal with these cults, read the Bible and follow it. I've never at any time said they couldn't discuss their religion, but as long as they drag it into politics, they can't hide behind Scripture to escape scrutiny and criticism. Expect a lot of scrutiny.
And from another attempted attack in 1999:
Law treats religions equally, like it or not
To the editor:
I enjoyed Mr. Gillespie's article on me entitled "Question is on setting a moment of silence." Mr. Gillespie didn't dispute that America is not founded on the Bible or that Christians have no special moral or legal standing over anyone else, and he even admitted Jesus "did not believe in cramming his message down someone's throat." He simply chose to attack the writer.
Let us cut through the chaff and get to the point: When these people talk of prayer in school, they mean Protestant Christian only. They want teacher-led Christian prayer to promote their version of Jesus, nothing more. The law gives no special treatment to anyone; we are all treated equally, and it drives some Christians insane. Again, I will say that nobody prevents any child from praying in school, and I would be the first to fight it if they do.
Mr. Gillespie correctly stated that the Declaration of Independence mentioned "Laws of Nature and Nature's God;" he failed to mention that it does not refer to Jesus who never even claimed to be God. It refers to a God who loves everybody and holds that we are all "created equal." There is simply no mention of Jesus, Moses, or any other biblical character. Fundamentalist Christians assume it meant Jesus just like they assume the earth is only 6,000 years old. Where's the proof? To hang the Ten Commandments with our Bill of Rights is simply promoting another distortion of the facts.
Finally, Mr. Gillespie suggests that I somehow want to censor Robertson, Falwell and the Christian Coalition: I want nothing of the kind! Their stupid statements on Jews, the Telletubbies and how God will drown Orlando, FIa., for allowing Gay Day speak for themselves. The fact is that they are their own worst enemies and their irrational ravings do more damage to their cause in one day than Carletta Sims and I can do in a thousand years.
Religion shouldn't serve politics
As an American, I prefer the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As a Christian, I prefer the Bible in my home. As a liberal, I prefer not to see Christianity used as a stepping stone for higher office or as a tool in order to pander to the religious right.
This is an outright disgrace and why I worry for the future of a country I have served and love. Enjoying the freedom of religion and the willingness to express it whether publicly or privately is fine. Using it in order to make law in a country with so many diverse religions is disturbing. Those who worship differently or don't even believe in God shouldn't have to feel as if they are governed by Christianity.
Historical fact states that the founding fathers wisely saw that the separation of church and state was essential to this country. They knew that if the line should even dared be crossed that we would perilously come close to a government-sponsored religion. This is what they escaped from.
Historical facts also show that men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were deists. They believed that the belief in God comes only in the way of rational thinking and not through religion or even the Bible. Thomas Jefferson said, "I do not find in Orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature." Benjamin Franklin said, "Lighthouses are more useful than churches." There are many other quotes by those men as well as George Washington, Thomas Paine and John Adams. A five-minute Google search is all it takes.
June 24, 2005 Kingsport Times-News.
Why even display commandments at all?
To the editor:
I have no problem with the commandments (never were 10). However, I do have a problem with people who abbreviate, revise, choose, mistranslate and disobey the commandments. Then there are the people who claim the commandments are done away by grace, yet try to place the yoke upon the necks of others!
My question is: Why display any version of the commandments - anywhere - at any time? The commandments are but an antiquated set of laws reportedly given by the God (YHWH) to the tribes of Israel. They were never obeyed by Israel, they were rejected by the Christian churches, yet retained as a "hammer" or a trophy (you choose).
To obey would mean ridding themselves of all their little statues, pictures of Jesus, crosses, WWJDS crucifixes, etc.! Christmas, Easter and Sunday would have to go bye-bye! That would take a chunk out of the economy! Reality is nasty, isn't it?
So goes the 1,900-year debate! The Apostle Paul got nowhere with his eloquent attempt to address the problem. No one listened then, nor will they today! Obey and enforce the commandments or shut up about them!
Quoting the Kingsport Times-News (1-18-2004)
"It seems clearer and clearer and clearer that we are promoting a particular religion, and that's a violation of the Constitution. The Constitution is the one document that protects minorities, and just because most people feel the Christian faith or the Jewish faith is the right faith, that doesn't mean they have a right to impose it on everyone else.