Judge suggests cutting some of the 10 Commandments

That sound you hear is Moses, doing a massive face/palm.


Could the Ten Commandments be reduced to six, a federal judge asked Monday.

Would that neutralize the religious overtones of a commandments display that has the Giles County School Board in legal hot water?

That unorthodox suggestion was made by Judge Michael Urbanski during oral arguments over whether the display amounts to a governmental endorsement of religion, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by a student at Narrows High School.

After raising many pointed questions about whether the commandments pass legal muster, the judge referred the case to mediation – with a suggestion:

Remove the first four commandments, which are clearly religious in nature, and leave the remaining six, which make more secular commands, such as do not kill or steal.

Ever since the lawsuit was filed in September amid heated community reaction, school officials have said the display is not religious because it also includes historical documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

“If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn’t it make sense for Giles County to say, ‘Let’s go back and just post the bottom six?’” Urbanski asked during a motions hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

“But if it’s really about God, then they wouldn’t be willing to do that.”

Read more.


  1. Is that God laughing at us again? Oy vey!

  2. Deacon Kevin says:

    It reminds me of what a certain Pharisee named Gamaliel said about the early church: “if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them — in that case, you may even be found fighting against God!”
    So watch out, your Honor!

  3. Father Wilson says:

    I can just see the ACLU lawsuit on behalf of Adulterer-Americans.

    “We represent Adulterer-Americans (not that there’s anything wrong with that…)”
    Fr Wilson

  4. On the other hand, I’d appreciate knowing that my child won’t be subjected to another religion’s commandments. The Ten Commandments are fine for a synagogue or a Christian Church. That’s where I’d expect them. That’s where they should stay. As for Judge Urbanski, he sounds like a Solomon to me.

  5. As someone who favors a Himalayan-sized wall between church and state, I have to say this judge ought to read some of the case law in these matters. No, editing the Commandments won’t cure the problem. The issue is not whether some of the commandments “sound religious” more than others.
    It has to do with the question of whether they are displayed with obvious sectarian religious intent and whether the nature of that display conveys government favoritism of religious beliefs. The very act of displaying some Commandments over others would convey a government endorsement of some religious principles over others, and thus would be unconstitutional. This is an open and shut case, and the only issue of any merit is whether or not the “larger display” of other documents will make the inclusion of the 10 Commandments constitutional. I believe it will not. It is a transparent sham. I am still researching what specific tests the Supreme Court may have used in the past, but it would seem to me that it falls short of any reasonable definition of a secular display of laws. If the school were truly just interested in curating an exhibit about evolution of jurisprudence, you would expect to see something more than framed documents on a wall.
    In the end, the school will lose this case, and will pay the ACLU lawyers for their time, a “fool’s tax” paid by every government body which abuses offices to force private religious views on the public.

    Ironically, they will lose because they couldn’t keep their big mouths shut. The records of meetings and rallies around the issue make it crystal clear, beyond any debate, that the Commandments were put up with the sole purpose of endorsing Christianity. People are on record as saying they wanted the displays put up because Giles County is Christian and those who don’t like it can “go someplace else.” Here’s a hint to the next theocrats waiting to fall into this honeytrap: If you tell the Court, on record, that you mean to unlawfully endorse religion in a public space, the justices will take you at your word, and tacking a Magna Carta on the wall next to the Commandments won’t get you off the hook.

  6. I think it would be tragically funny if the theocracy advocates finally got their way. Their whole argument is that whoever is in the majority in an area, currently Christians, own the public space and any religious minorities who aren’t willing to play along can just eat dirt. If they ever win some case law affirming that, they’ll do a victory dance and revel in their triumphalism. One day thereafter, in a decade or three, their school district will be majority Muslim. They’ll be hoist by their own petard, and crying to the ACLU to help them revive the separation doctrine they helped kill. And I’ll laugh.

  7. Midwestlady says:

    Massive hilarity here. Which ones does the judge want to jetison, the ones he doesn’t like?

  8. The judge is basically just needling the defendants to get them to reveal their obvious lie that the display is secular in purpose and intent. He’s suggesting to them “if it’s not about religion, than surely you wouldn’t mind excluding some of the more flagrantly religious commandments?” Of course they mind, and of course the intent of the display is to shove Judeo-Christian identity down the throats of any atheists or liberals who happen to be on the property.

  9. Cuius regio, eius religio… my Latin is a bit rusty/non-existent.

  10. Midwestlady says:

    Todd, Solomon is who I thought of, too, when I read this. This judge has heard of Solomon and the two women. The women were living together and each had a son the same night. One died and there ensued a struggle over whose child had died and whose had lived.

    1 Kings 3:16-3:27, the latter part of which is here:
    23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
    24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
    26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
    But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
    27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

    Tell the judge we have all 10 on the wall, or we have none, and let him apply the law as written.

  11. I agree with you Kenneth, but this story reminded me of old joke.
    Moses comes down from the mountian and says “I have some good news and some bad news.”. “The good news is that I got HIM down to 10 commandments. The bad news is: adultery’s still in.”.

  12. Have to say I would oppose the judge’s “solution” because it would amount to a scrubbing down of the Ten Commandments to remove the emphasis on our relationship (covenant) with God. Do that long enough — that is, display the abridged, cleaned-up, safe-for-public-display version of the Six Commandments — and people end up forgetting the covenental basis for God handing them down.

    Like Todd, I would just as soon keep the Ten Commandments off PUBLIC walls and instead celebrate them (and honor them) in our places of worship and our homes.

    By the way — the Ten Commandments can still be lived out by devout Jews, Christians, and Muslims even in those public places where they are not displayed. For instance, I wish birthers in the Tea Party who claim loudly that they are Christian would not bear false witness by claiming that the President was not born an American citizen, or a native-born citizen, or whatever it is one or two percent of the population claims even after the long-form birth certificate was released a year ago. And people can still decide not to covet other people’s wives or husbands, even when they are in a public space, even if the Ten Commandments are not on display there. And, for that matter, they can decide not to make an idol out of the expensive vehicles and mansions they might be hoping to buy, or the tax break they are hoping Congress will bestow on the wealthiest one or two percent of the population. Those are but a few ways people can live out the Ten Commandments — as long as they touch base with those commandments in their daily lives and do not just view them as mere art for public walls. You do not need a public display of the texts to live out the Ten Commandments — or the Gospel, for that matter.

  13. Would the reference to the “Creator” have to be removed from the Declaration as well?

  14. Well, in those days, the adultery lobby didn’t have the advantages of Super Pac money!

  15. Gail Finke says:

    He sounds like Solomon? You mean when Solomon suggested cutting the baby in half? The whole point of that story was that his suggestion was absurd, you couldn’t cut the baby in half, and so anyone who agreed with the suggestion was wrong. And you can’t cut the 10 Commandments in two either — the first four commandments are the underpinnings of the next six. These are some of the foundations of Western law, whether you like them or not, and there is nothing wrong with saying so. Pretending this is not the case is a lie.

  16. Regina J. Faighes says:

    Excellent point, Jem. And following that line of thinking, “In God We Trust, would be removed from our currency.

  17. Actually, the courts have so far held that the National Motto on currency and the Pledge do not constitute endorsement of religion and so are constitutional. So far that has been at the appellate level. The SC had a chance to rule on the pledge some years ago but dodged it by finding that the plaintiff lacked standing to pursue the case.

  18. The judge’s somewhat “tongue in cheek” Solomon act was done to point out the lie in the position of the Commandment advocates. They are lying in their own legal posturing which pretends they want the Commandments displayed as “just another source” of modern Western legal thinking. It’s not an attempt to endorse religion, it’s just another secular document that’s part of the history of jurisprudence. They don’t believe that. They are on record as saying their intent is establishment.

    Their shabby thrown-together “display” also does not amount to any scholarly historical exhibit of any substance. No serious scholar would conclude that the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and 10 Commandments adequately summarize the development of modern democracy, nor that each of these documents contributed equally to that. The secular documents in the mix were thrown up grudgingly and cynically as a ploy for legal cover after the community clamored for de-facto establishment of Christianity in the school buildings.

  19. That is why GOD wrote them in stone becausce he knew that some day some edit would want to change them


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