Michael Medved hates Catholics

Michael Medved, writing at TownHall.com, says that "liberals … hate the Ten Commandments."

He reaches this conclusion because civil libertarian groups like the ACLU and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty believe that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

These groups oppose the establishment of any official state religion. Medved seizes on a particular instance of this opposition and pretends that it is based on the particular content of the religious establishment, rather than on the general constitutional principle.

This is a rather bizarre conclusion. It's possible that Medved is simply being deliberately obtuse — that he's lying to score political points. It's also possible that he thinks his non-sequitur reasoning makes sense, but it would be uncharitable to presume he's that stupid.

KieslMy guess is that Medved is simply assuming that the ACLU views the world, and the First Amendment, the same way that he does. Medved does not himself see any principled reason to oppose the establishment of an official state religion. He does, however, oppose the establishment of Hinduism or Islam. His opposition to such an establishment of religion is not based on the principle of religious liberty, however, but rather is based on his disagreement with the particular content of those religions. He doesn't like Hinduism or Islam, so he opposes any state-sponsored efforts to privilege them. Thus, when Medved sees the ACLU opposing state-sponsored efforts to privilege particular forms of Christianity, he jumps to the conclusion that this must be because the ACLU does not like the particular content of that Christianity. Therefore, according to Medved's reasoning, civil libertarians must "hate the Ten Commandments."

We civil libertarians and Baptists view both the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment as necessary for the protection of religious liberty. We view these clauses as complementary. We believe that the establishment of a state-sponsored, official, privileged religion would disastrously, and unconstitutionally, prohibit the free exercise of religion.

People like Medved, however, see these two clauses as contradictory. They believe that the only way to guarantee the free exercise of their religion is to grant it official state sanction — to create an establishment of religion. Thus they view the Establishment clause as a limitation, a negation, of the Free Exercise clause. Some of Medved's allies, people like disrobed judge Roy Moore, unabashedly call for the elimination of the Establishment clause. Others take a subtler, more gradual approach, arguing as Medved does that certain broad privileges — like the posting of the Ten Commandments — should be granted to certain popular religions as a way of making the Establishment clause more elastic and less of a perceived threat to Free Exercise.

That being his strategy, it's no wonder that Medved imagines the ACLU must be up to the same thing. His position is not based on principle, but on a Hobbesian struggle for religious dominance, so he can't help but imagine that everyone else must be acting on similar motives. Thus, he concludes, not only must civil libertarians "hate the Ten Commandments," but they are right to do so.

Unfortunately for Michael Medved, his TownHall column goes on to list the Ten Commandments — and this is where he gets himself in trouble. There are several different, competing sectarian formulations of the Decalogue (here's a helpful chart breaking down the variations). Medved acknowledges this diversity of opinions, and then he takes sides:

For the purposes of this discussion of these conflicts, I’ll cite translations from the original Hebrew in the excellent Stone Edition of the biblical text (Exodus 20; 2-14), and I’ll use the traditional numbering favored by Jews and Protestants. (Catholics group Commandments 1 and 2 together, and make two separate Commandments — 9 and 10 — out of the prohibition on “coveting” that Protestants and Jews identify solely as number 10.)

Medved claims he is presenting an "innocuous and generally uncontroversial … summary of universal moral precepts," but what he is actually stating is this: where Catholics differ from Protestants, he sides with the Protestants. And not with all the Protestants, since he chooses the Stone Edition rather than the King James Version preferred by KJV-only fundamentalists. Medved relegates those fundamentalists, like the Catholics, to the fringes. Their religion is secondary, inferior, wrong, false, illegitimate, unprivileged and unprotected.

Michael Medved hates Catholics. He believes that their free exercise of religion is legitimate only within limits.

Perhaps you think this is an overstatement. After all, column space is limited, so Medved had to choose one enumeration and one translation over the others. But that choice was a matter of preference, and that preference elevates one sectarian perspective over the others. And just like Medved, any courthouse wishing to display a monument to the Ten Commandments would be forced to choose: Protestant or Catholic? Mainline or fundamentalist? And to choose is to prefer, to elevate and to subjugate, to establish and to limit the free exercise of religion.

Medved's preference is clear. He hates Catholics just as much as "liberals … hate the Ten Commandments."

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  • Jesurgislac

    Maybe Michael needs to attend a football game at Wahiawa High School. Because unless you’re ready to endure the unwilling exposure of yourself and your children to those beliefs and practices that your own faith forswears, you have no right to insist that others sit in silence and complicity while you do the same to them. I, for one, slept better at night knowing that because Judeo-Christian prayers were not being offered at my children’s schools, I didn’t have to worry about them being confronted with Buddhist, Shinto, Wiccan, Satanic or any other prayer ritual I might find offensive.

  • Mary Jones

    Honest to god, when I started reading this post, I thought it would be about the movie. Which I can only say has been improved.

  • Chris T.

    This is a little over the top, isn’t it? Not that I’m at all sympathetic to Medved’s view, but what you’re talking about is a slight difference in numbering and so forth. Nowhere is Medved saying that Catholics are wrong about morality, just that he prefers the Protestant/Jewish numbering.
    Let’s criticize the far right for what they actually say, huh? Rather than making stuff up. This whole post sounds a little unhinged given how small the issue is.

  • David

    @ cjmr:
    And that would be reasonable on your part — as long as you don’t start advocating (especially as a politician) that your preference should be mandated in official government buildings.
    @ Chris T:
    Fred isn’t actually saying that Medved hates Catholics. He’s saying that saying Medved hates Catholics for this reason is exactly as rational as saying that “liberals hate the Ten Commandments” because they don’t want them posted in official government buildings, which is what Medved is doing. After all, like you say, nowhere are (most of) these liberals saying that the Ten Commandments are wrong in their morality, just that they prefer separation of church and state.

  • Mike

    He says he’s using the “traditional” numbering favored by Jews and Protestants, but the chart you link to shows Jews using a different numbering scheme. Do some Protestants differ in the systems they use?
    I really have no dog in this fight, but since it’s a Jewish book, using any other system seems pretty silly.

  • Richard Hershberger

    Responding to Chris T., I think what Fred is doing here is playing a game of “let’s pretend”. He is pretending that Medved is an honest and intelligent person who understands the implications of his positions. Fred has then worked out what these implications are. Has Medved worked them out himself and mean what he says? Probably not. But this just goes back to the “honest and intelligent” bit.

  • Amanda

    Yes, Fred is pulling a little trickery here.
    For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

  • julia

    Medved credits Republican operatives the Lapin brothers (of Abramoff and Mariannas fame) for inspiring his observance of judaism and his understanding of the history of judaism in countries with official christian faiths. It only makes sense he’d be a bit confused.

  • julia

    Why, yes, Amanda, I do believe that was his point.

  • Ben

    If you want to see something even MORE offensive from Medved, go here:

  • straight

    You guys are missing Fred’s point. Medved wants to post the Ten Commandments on government buildings. Fred asks the very sensible question, “Which version? The Catholic version, the Jewish version, the mainline Protestent version, or the KJV-only fundamentalist version?”
    Because it would have to be one of those (in a given location), and once the government chooses, the government is putting it’s stamp of approval on one of those groups at the expense of the others.
    I think it’s brilliant, because if we asked this question of everyone advocating for the Ten Commandments, maybe the light would come on in some of their heads, “Hey, if the government starts establishing religion, it might not be mine!”
    There’s a similar point made about prayer in schools: Imagine the teacher leading the class with “Hail Mary, full of grace” or “Our Mother who art in heaven”.

  • Drocket

    *You’d think that someone who is so afraid of some hysterical phobia of foreigners enforcing their religious beliefs on him, he’d take a look at the growth of the muslim faiths over the past century or so (which mirrors something of a decline in the number of christian believers), do the obvious math that, if religion A can force everyone in america to pray as they pray and interpret hte bible as they interpret the bible, then religion B would be able to do the same at some later date, especially if it’s the only religon that is actually growing as other religions are shrinking.*
    Or possibly the bigot in question figures that if he can turn the country into into a theocracy now, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to ensure that religion B never becomes the dominant religion. A few ‘re-education’ centers to ensure that the internal followers of religion B realize the errors of their ways, and a few nukes to ensure the external followers learn their place in the world (AKA dust), and you’re good to go with your perpetual kingdom for the glory of God.
    I’m not really familiar with Michael Medved and his particular plans, but these are pretty much the ideas I’ve heard more than a few times.

  • nieciedo

    One thing I’ve never understood is why Christians feel the that the 10 Commandments apply to them at all? The very first one says “I am the Eternal One, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery…”
    It should be clear that God is only talking to those people whom He actually led out of slavery in Egypt, i.e., the Jews.
    I thought one of the nice things Jesus was supposed to have done was replace the 10 with the 2?

  • cjmr’s husband

    Don’t tell anyone, it’s the only thing that keeps them from murdering and stealing.
    /Lying and Coveting gave up years ago, Adultery is still illegal in Michigan.

  • Erick Oppeen

    If I were feeling captious, I would say that putting the Ten Commandments—you know, the ones that include commandments forbidding stealing, bearing false witness, and committing adultery—up in government buildings is creating a hostile working environment.
    That aside, I wonder how Medved and his ilk would feel if we did as they asked—but _in the original Hebrew?_ That solves the problem of which version to use, doesn’t it? And if nobody pays attention, since almost nobody in the US speaks/reads Hebrew, is that us secular types’ fault?

  • Scott

    We civil libertarians and Baptists view both the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment as necessary for the protection of religious liberty. We view these clauses as complementary. We believe that the establishment of a state-sponsored, official, privileged religion would disastrously, and unconstitutionally, prohibit the free exercise of religion.
    Fred, you constitutional-literalist-extremist, the Establishment clause says whatever the State needs it to say. You haven’t been reduced to pointing to the actual _text_ of the document, have you? How limiting. Times change and so what those literal words mean also changes. If Medved wants it reinterpreted to get the result he wants encoded into the constitution, who is a liberal to complain?

  • Technocracygirl

    He’s also choosing amongst Jewish variations. When I saw that at Pandagon, I was astonished by Medved’s version of the Second Commandment.
    You shall not recognize the gods of others in My presence. You shall not make yourself a carved image nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the water beneath the earth. You shall not prostrate yourself to them nor worship them…..
    I have been at both Orthodox and Reform congragations, and I never heard anyone pontificating on the anything like the first and third lines. In fact, the first line is usually put up with the First Commandment, as in: “I am your G-d who led you out of Egypt; you will have no other G-ds before me.” Which, of course, when written that way, implicitly recognizes that there are other G-ds out there, but Adoshem, that’s the G-d who comes first to the people reading this book.
    And the no carved likenesses of anything? That flies in the face of well-nigh unto 2000-plus years of rabbinical thought. You’re not allowed to make images of G-d, and since humans are created in the likeness of G-d, you’re not allowed to make images of people. What this has meant that flowers, fish, animals, stars, and everythign else in the world is fair game. From the Chagall windows at the Haddassah hospital to ancient mosaics, Jews have been using the natural word to decorate their homes and religious objects.
    So it’s not only reliogions that he’s not a part of that he’s choosing between, but it’s his own — and in doing so, he’s choosing a minority position amongst all of the various braches of Judaism.

  • KnightHawk

    “I think it’s brilliant, because if we asked this question of everyone advocating for the Ten Commandments, maybe the light would come on in some of their heads, “Hey, if the government starts establishing religion, it might not be mine!”
    Either that, or they’d stare at you blankly. I was raised in that kinda church man, and I got to tell you, I’d wager at least 80% of them are unaware there even IS more than one version of the ten commandments. Hell, I didn’t, not until years after I stopped being a Christian.
    Love. Peace. Metallica.

  • Wakboth

    “He says he’s using the “traditional” numbering favored by Jews and Protestants, but the chart you link to shows Jews using a different numbering scheme. Do some Protestants differ in the systems they use?”
    Lutherans (the ur-Protestants, so to say) use the same system as the Catholics, which makes sense, since Luther wanted to reform the Catholic Church, not to split from it.

  • the opoponax

    @ KnightHawk:
    totally. i remember in catholic school, my classmates barely had any idea that there was any path other than catholicism, let alone religions other than christianity. i remember the “prayer in school” discussion came up in our religion class, and they just could not understand why anyone would need “seperation of church and state”. i mean, ok, so everyone in the world is a catholic. so how could praying at school be so wrong?
    the best ones are the ones who insist that non-christians should have no problem with this 10 Commandments in Public Buildings issue, since they’re “just a good moral guideline that apply to everyone equally”. yeah, except for the first 3 or 4… mmm hmmm… how exactly does “i am the lord thy god; thou shalt have no other gods before me” apply to “everyone”, again?

  • KnightHawk

    Because you go to hell if you worship fat dudes talkin about enlightenment. Duh. Do I have to explain EVERYTHING?
    Love. Peace. Metallica.

  • Tom

    Not being Christian, I have never understood. Why are the verses in Exodus 34 not considered a version of the ten commandmens? Verse 28 even says that they are? Can anyone suggest an explanation?

  • Chris C

    I’m not feeling charitable towards Medved, so I’m going to go ahead and state that he’s breaking two of the commandments he’s proporting to support.
    First, he’s bearing false witness about the ACLU. Even a cursory glance at their history shows them defending people from all over the political and religious map. That has to include a few in whatever this guy thinks of as his tribe.
    Second, putting a two-ton rock monument (a la Disrobed Judge Moore) with the inscription “I AM YOUR GOD” sounds like an idol to me.

  • LL

    Medved’s an idiot. Why anybody gives him one second of face time on TV or one column inch in any publication is a wonder to me.

  • inge

    It’s not as if there were no countries with a protestant state religion. Reformed in some parts of Switzerland, Lutheran in Scandinavia, Anglican in England/Scotland… it’s just this guy’s bad luck to have been born in the USA instead.

  • Cynthia

    Chris C., you’re right about the idolatry of that stone monument. Did you see the photos and videos of the people weeping and gnashing their teeth when it was removed? It gave me the creeps.

  • Doctor Science

    The difference between Catholic & Protestant wording of the Ten Commandments, far from being minor, was a major impetus for the Catholic parochial school movement. In case that link doesn’t come through, it’s from Chapter 1 of Cathlicism and American Freedom by John T. McGreevey. It’s an account of the Eliot School Rebellion, in which Catholics left the Eliot, MA, public schools after Catholic students were forced to recite the Protestant version of the 10C.

  • Jeff

    Michael Medved should stick to doing reviews of bad movies.
    Michael Medved should stick to doing bad reviews of movies.

  • Bob Waters

    Patheos indeed. This is a truly pathetic piece of writing. As a Lutheran- a Protestant whose tradition uses the same numbering of the Commandments as does Roman Catholicism (the Anglicans do, as well)- I find Mr. Clark’s argument ridiculous. Mr. Medved simply uses his own tradition’s numbering of the Commandments. That the Calvinists use the same system is neither here nor there, especially since most Protestants worldwide do not (there are more at least nominal Lutherans in the world than all other Protestants combined).

    There is no agenda to create an “established religion” in America.  But there is a movement to recognize, first, that people who follow any religious tradition have a right to do so without interference from the government (the current requirement that employers must violate their religious convictions in order to pay for health insurance that would cover the “morning after”pill is a good example of this principle being violated). It is also a movement to insist upon a point which President Obama himself made quite eloquently in a speech a year or so before his election to the White House.

    The Abolitionist movement, the movement against child labor, the civil rights movement, the peace movement of the 1960’s, and in fact virtually every social reformist movement in our history has originated in the religious convictions of Americans. To advocate views which have their origin in religious convictions is perfectly appropriate in a pluralistic society, and do not constitute an attempt to “impose” anything on anybody. Of course, as Mr. Obama pointed out, they have the obligation to make their argument in religiously-neutral terms, as public policy rather than theology. But then again, if they don’t, they are defeating their own agenda; only those who share their religious beliefs will be impressed by an appeal to them as the basis for adopting a measure.

    Between those two facts, I think those paranoid enough to suspect that somebody is trying to create an “established religion” can relax. They might be concerned instead with the Left’s war on everybody’s religion who does not bow down, as Mr. Medved suggested, before the idol of Government thy god.

  • Since you agree that it’s important to advocate views affecting public policy in religiously neutral terms, can you summarize what you consider the compelling religiously neutral arguments in favor of allowing an employer to prevent a health insurance provider from covering mifepristone in the same way as other legal prescription drugs?