Date Published: September 3, 2003
Ten Commandments Don't Belong in Sullivan County Courthouse
Get out paper and pencil. Warm up your computer and modem. The subject for today is the Ten Commandments. My employers love controversy and letters to the editor. Who knows? I might even get a pay raise. Before you go any further, know that I am not now, nor have ever been an atheist, I do attend church (most of the time), and believe in God. I firmly believe that the Ten Commandments are possibly the best moral guides you can find. My problem is simply with using government for advertising.
In 1620 the Pilgrims got on a leaky old ship and came to the new world to avoid religious persecution. Since then we Americans have been adamant about religious freedom. The First Amendment to our Constitution declares, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...'' That's what this whole brouhaha is all about.
As I said I don't think it can be argued that the laws that Moses brought down from the mountain are not a good basis on which to live. They certainly are definitely one of the basics of all Judeo-Christian belief.
Saying that, in the United States the tenet that we should never mix the affairs of church and state are well established. Thomas Jefferson, who had seen firsthand the influence of the Catholic Church in France (anybody remember Cardinal Richelieu?) and distrusted clergy of any kind, in a number of documents, stated to the Baptists and others that this amendment had rightfully built a "wall between church and state."
Senator. Barry Goldwater told the U.S. Senate that "we have succeeded for 205 years in keeping the affairs of state separate from the uncompromising idealism of religious groups and we mustn't stop now. To retreat from that separation would violate the principles of conservatism and the values upon which the framers built this democratic republic."
Even Jesus Christ proclaimed that we should "Render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar's, etc'' (granted he was talking about taxes). Anyhow, one of the many things that makes this country great, is that all of us, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, even atheists, etc., are free to worship - or not - as we desire. Given that, is it appropriate to allow only Christians to put up plaques and monuments in or on government buildings?
If so then wouldn't it be just as appropriate to allow other religions to erect some the writings of Mohammed, Confucius, Buddha, etc.? I don't think so. If for no other reason, there probably isn't enough wall space.
Look at some of the countries in the Middle East. Religious clerics run (or want to run) many of the governments. Because religion gets in the way even they constantly fight among themselves. (Ever imagine what our city government, let alone Congress, would be like if our politicians were all clergymen? They can't agree on much now. Talk about confusion!)
In some of these countries if you don't go to church (mosque) at the right place you put your life in your hands. Remember the pictures of the Taliban shooting a woman who was accused of adultery at the local soccer stadium? If we were to take this thing to the extreme there would be a lot of shooting going on in the D-B stadium.
If you check your history books you will find that extremism in the name of some religion or other isn't anything new. How many Indians did Europeans kill in the name of Christianity? The blood bath when India and Pakistan split was unreal and still goes on. Christians and Muslims killing each other are normal in the Balkans. We drove the Mormons from Illinois to Utah. And of course, there was the Spanish Inquisition. So, as far as I am concerned, long live religious freedom! If we have to err on the side of conservatism and that means no plaques or statues in/on the courthouse, so be it! I've met a lot of people who have had religious enlightening experiences, but none had them at the local courthouse.
A belief in God isn't something that you get when you go to get your driver's license renewed or pay your taxes. If we want to advertise religious beliefs it should be done in the right place. Take out an advertisement in the paper or TV. Put a billboard at someplace like the Bristol racetrack. Go somewhere you can get the most bang for your buck. That's definitely not the courthouse wall. So much for pontifications on the Ten Commandments! Now you can write your letter to the editor and call me the Great Satan. You'll find instructions right above this article.
Copyright 2003, Kingsport Publishing Corporation.
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