Another battle over the 10 Commandments

Another battle over the 10 Commandments August 11, 2011

This one is unfolding in Florida:

The folks who live in this sparsely populated rural region along Florida’s upper west coast don’t like outsiders butting in, especially when it comes to their religious beliefs.

They’re miffed, to put it politely, and appealing a federal judge’s order to remove a five-foot high granite monument that prominently displays the Ten Commandments in front of the Dixie County courthouse by Sunday.

It’s the latest skirmish in a years-long conflict across theUnited States between state and local officials who have wanted to honor the laws that help define their faith and those who argue such displays should stay out of any public forum under a constitution that bars the establishment of religion.

It has been almost eight years since former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from office and gained nationwide notoriety for refusing to move another huge granite monument to the commandments from the court’s lobby. But similar disputes continue to trickle through the courts in towns and counties nationwide.

Dixie County officials and residents say support for their monument is unanimous and they accuse outsiders of trampling on their way of life.

“We have not had one negative comment from the community,” said county managerMike Cassidy, a 48-year-old, fourth-generation Floridian who grew up in Cross City. “No one in this county has come forward and said, ‘this should be removed.’ It has been totally unanimous.”

The six-ton, $20,000 monument still sits on the courthouse steps. Beneath the commandments, the monument reads in large capital letters, “LOVE GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.”

Residents here have long had a reputation for their independence and don’t take kindly to outsider interference, even if it’s a constitutional issue.

“There will be people standing around it to protect it when they come to remove it,” said Donald Eady, a 38-year-old mobile mechanic who lives in neighboring Old Town, a short jaunt south down four-lane U.S. Highway 19. “The people here enjoy it. We should have that freedom, but they’re taking our freedom away daily.”

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13 responses to “Another battle over the 10 Commandments”

  1. I get so annoyed whenever this comes up. What modern day evangelical fundamentalists may not even really understand is that the CODIFICATION of the laws of Moses into “TEN” commandments is not a product of Divine will but of “human teachings.”

    How about a direct quote from the book of Exodus in the TaNaKh.
    “I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods besides Me. You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God; for the Lord will not clear one who swears falsely by His name. Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God: you shall not do any work — you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blesses the sabbath day and hallowed it. Honor your father and mother, that you may long endure in the land the Lord your God is assigning you. You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbors wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
    NOW, Roman Catholics codify these commandments a different way that the evangelical fundamentalists do and — as shown above — as even the Jewish folk do.

    And some folks, just reading the text itself, suggest that there are really fourteen!

  2. What I find interesting is the fact that so few of the churches which support public displays of the Ten Commandments do not have such displays on their own property. Why do they not display these on their own property, which in many cases is well situated along a well-traveled street? Why do they insist on putting up these monuments in the public square and then waste funds (either their own or the taxpayers’) defending their alleged “right” to do so?

    Is the goal here to promote the morality represented by the Decalogue, or to influence local politics?

  3. My church actually has a monument to the Ten Commandments in our church parking lot. It is shaped just like the one in the photo above, and was donated by a friend of our pastor, so we didn’t have to pay for anything except the installation. On one side are the commandments and on the other are the beatitudes. The base section below the commandments has the two Great Commandments about love of God and neighbor. Below the Eight Beatitudes is the “beatitude” we all like to forget, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”

  4. Why do some super religious folks think that the 10 Commandments belong on PUBLC property? In spite of what people think, this country is NOT a totally Christian nation that agrees on everything that those people believe, thus their “rules” do not apply to all. Public places are NOT where they should be displayed. There are good reasons that there is a separation of church and state in this country. Fortunately we are not a religiously led country such as Iran, Iraq etc.

  5. If they don’t want to live under the laws of our nation, they’re free to go someplace else. Since when does “outsider interference” grant someone an exemption to the laws of the land? That was the rationale used to maintain Jim Crow culture and laws for almost a century in open defiance of our nation’s Constitution. In some polygamist sects, support for “marriage” of underage girls to old men is “unanimous.” Culture War Christians have constructed a persecution narrative in which they claim the right to engage in criminal acts of defiance the minute our nation’s legal system deviates from their wishes in any way. To them, the nation’s promise of freedom to believe and worship in their own way is not nearly enough. For them, their freedom is meaningless unless it includes the power to define themselves as the only “real Americans” in culture and in law.

  6. The real question is why and how the government gained the right to pass any laws that allow the infringment of religion. The Founders of our country knew that the religious belief of the people was such a strong and powerful need in the country the set up that it came before freedom of the press and freedom of speech in our rights. They wanted to make sure the government which included the courts were prevented from forcing anything on the people which included forcing the religion of atheist from the state level. The entire separation clause is a huge lie from its discovery. Any court using a letter from a president as if it were part of the original founding documents should have been impeached just like finding privacy rights where they are not mentioned in the founding to allow just about anything from killing babies to gay special rights.

  7. “The real question is why and how the government gained the right to pass any laws that allow the infringment of religion.”…………..

    That would be our nation’s Constitution. The terminology of “wall of separation” may be debated as came from a president’s letter and not the text, the intent of the framers to keep government away from propping up one religion over another is crystal clear. The First Amendment is pretty clear in its intent to keep government out of the religion business, either for or against. Article IV, Section 3 likewise makes it very clear that no religious test for office will be required.

    The people who pushed Jefferson to come up with the “wall of separation” were not wild-eyed atheists or socialists of any kind. They were Baptists who knew what it was like to end up on the wrong end of a state sponsored religion. Then there was the Treat of Tripoli language, other writings by Madison who argued for total separation of church and state (for the good of religion), and an enormous body of work by enlightenment thinkers and philisophers who informed the creation of our country and its Constitution.

    One can dismiss or spin any one of these things to try to diminish their importance, but the overall weight of evidence is undeniable: the framers intended for the government to stay out of the religion enforcement or support business altogether. They did that not to enforce atheism. They often spoke of the virtue of religious belief, but that was something left to an individual and their conscience. To do otherwise inevitably led to bloodshed and a cheapening of the religion itself once it became emeshed with state power.

    One can certainly argue how far the government must bend to avoid the appearance of religious favoritism, but its real hard for any reasonable court to see a huge display of the Decalogue at a courthouse as anything other than a ringing endorsement of one religion over others. That’s the obvious and often openly stated intent of the folks who argue for keeping the commandments on display in government buildings.

    If they were truly just interested in some generic public tribute to sources of jurisprudence, they could include things like the Code of Hammurabi, the Magna Carta, laws of ancient Greek democracy etc. If they did that, I can almost guarantee it would pass legal muster. You won’t see that because their interest is in establishing a particular form of Christianity as the state religion.

    As to the idea of impeaching a court for having the temerity to perform a judicial review function, that train left the station in 1803 with Marbury v Madison.

  8. Re: Kenneth #7

    “If they were truly just interested in some generic public tribute to sources of jurisprudence, they could include things like the Code of Hammurabi, the Magna Carta, laws of ancient Greek democracy etc. If they did that, I can almost guarantee it would pass legal muster.”

    I know of at least one courthouse yard here in a major city in the Midwest that does just that — and yes — no one has raised the slightest furor. The monuments are all the same size and have been placed in a balanced geographical pattern.

  9. I can only imagine the hue and cry that would be raised if a Muslim group sought to have a display of some verses from the Koran erected outside a courthouse.

    “Sharia Law!!!”

    Our courts are to uphold the law of the land, the Constitution, not any particular faith’s scriptural mandates. Let them be about their Constitutional duties, and let the churches be about their spiritual duties.

    For example, if the Commandments are such important aspects of morality in our nation, let the churches display them in their front yards, in their sanctuaries, and let them preach them from their pulpits. Let’s have the churches take the lead in modeling the behavior proscribed by the Commandments. Let’s have Christians become positive models of how those should play out in our day-to-day lives.

    That would be a much more positive and much more God-honoring monument to the Ten Commandments than any stone monument, no matter how large and impressive.

    Jeremiah 31:33a “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”

  10. Greta, #6, do you define this country as either Christian or Atheist? Just wondered. Ths is a country of devout Christians, devout Muslims, devout Jews, Pagans, etc. And most certainly there are those that do not follow a religion—some are atheists, and some are agnostics, and I’m sure there are other catagories. This country allows all of us to live with our beliefs and follow them and it allows those of use who choose to not attend or follow an organized faith. The fact that some feel their particular beliefs should be displayed on or in public areas is to say that this country IS of just one religion, which isn’t true. If they have that monument on the grounds of their church–no problem. That would be their property and actually, the public as it drives/walks by would see it—-just as they do when it is placed on public grounds where, IMO, it shouldn’t be displayed.

  11. pagansister #10

    FWIW, the 10 Commandments aren’t “of just one religion” since they are recognized as scriptural by Jews and Christians alike. I’m not sure of the status of the decalogue within Islam, but I understand that Muslims recognize Moses as a prophet.

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