Joe Mariani

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Ten Commandments?
Aug 28, 2003

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
- First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
As an agnostic, I'm either the most or least qualified to comment on the controversy surrounding the Ten Commandments monument being displayed in an Alabama courthouse. Frankly, I don't see the problem with it. A monument to the foundation of the laws of this country doesn't scare me, offend me, or fill me with dread. To me, it's more of a historical than a religious monument.

The people of the new United States were, for the most part, deeply religious; most believed in various forms of Christianity. Recognising this, and keeping in mind the terrible civil rights violations perpetrated by the English monarchs on them and their ancestors, the Founding Fathers (I don't care what the Liberals say; there were no women elected to Congress until Jeannette Rankin in 1917 -- a Republican from Montana!) acted to guarantee certain freedoms to their citizens. The Bill of Rights was proposed on 25 September 1789, and it is no accident that the first and foremost proposal ratified (after two concerning the numbers and pay rates of Congressmen, which weren't) addressed the freedom of every citizen to follow any religion he pleased, free of persecution by the government. Nowhere does the Constitution say that members of the government must deny their religion, or that they must pretend the laws of the United States were created spontaneously out of the Founders' own heads.

Anyone who tries to deny that the laws of the United States have their deepest roots in the Biblical Ten Commandments is only lying to him or herself. Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780) was the author of Commentaries on the Laws of England, in which he acknowledged that the Ten Commandments were the basis for English law (upon which American law was based) when he wrote, "The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures...Yet undoubtedly the revealed law is (humanly speaking) of infinitely more authority than what we generally call the natural law. Because one is the law of nature, expressly declared so to be by God himself; the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law." Whether you believe in the religions that espouse them is immaterial; the laws of the United States of America were originally based upon those Ten Commandments, and displaying them in a public place is a fitting nod to the historical continuity of our judicial system, stretching and evolving over thousands of years to become the laws we live by today. Should we erase all our laws from the books, as they were based on those Ten Commandments? You might just as well object to showing cavemen in the Museum of Natural History as showing the ancestor of our laws in the courtroom.

One of the main Liberal objections to the Ten Commandments monument is that it might "offend" people of non-Christian religions. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit demanding the monument be removed all claim to be "offended" in some way by the tribute to legal history because it "sends a message of exclusion to the community". Who are they kidding? Who is excluded? The two largest religions in the world in the year 2000, according to census and public opinion data compiled by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, were Christians and Muslims, together comprising 52.6% of the world's population. (I was personally surprised to find that there are only 18 million professed Jews in the world, about a third of which live in the US.) Hindus comprise the world's third largest religion, but there are only 1.1 million Hindus in the United States. In the US and Canada, 88% of adults belong to one Christian faith or another.

So who are the Liberals afraid of offending... Muslims? In case anyone is unaware of the history of the Muslim religion, it is an offshoot of both Christianity and Judaism, as Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism. According to Understanding Islam, "It is believed (by Muslims) that the Injeel and Torah have been corrupted/altered by the followers of Christianity and Judaism... They lost a part of the guidance given to them." The Ten Commandments are as much a part of Muslim tradition as Christian. I wonder why Liberals think they might be offended. I wonder whether anyone has asked Muslim leaders in this country whether they're offended?

Maybe Liberals think asking whether they're offended might be offensive.


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