Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Georgia and the Ten Commandments

A lawmaker in Georgia, Tommy Benton, is trying to get posters of the ten commandments displayed in all county and municipal courthouses. Lawmakers in the Georgia House of Representatives have approved a bill (see, which main purpose is "to recognize the religious heritage of America". It specifically mentions the display of 3 documents: the Mayflower Compact, the Ten Commandments, and the Declaration of Independence. In the words of the bill these three documents are "Public displays which acknowledge religious heritage".
The bill mainly does three things:
1. Directs the Secretary of State to prepare and distribute these displays to all counties and municipalities, at the Georgia taxpayer expense.
2. Authorizes these county and municipal governments to display them.
3. Directs the Attorney General to defend and bear costs of defending such actions.
Normally I wouldn't worry too much about this, but with the new U.S. Supreme Court makeup, it very well could get upheld. Talk about a waste of millions of dollars that could go to MUCH more useful purposes.
Here's why I don't think that the Ten Commandments offer any legitimate constitutional or legal historical context: Only 4 of the 10 commandments are law. Murder, stealing, adultery, and bearing false witness are all illegal, although adultery is not enforced, and bearing false witness is only illegal in court while under oath (arguably sometimes while under investigation). Those things also happen to be illegal in many other countries whose history have nothing to do with the ten commandments. These offenses are morally wrong whether any religion says so or not. In fact, doing some of the actions the commandments tell you not to do are actions that are protected by the Constitution! So the ten commandments are definitely no basis for the Constitution.
Do the commandments have historical significance in our society? Yes, definitely. But so does the bible, god, religion, and many other countless items. That doesn't mean any of them should be displayed in governmental institutions. This bill is just another way for over-zealous christians to impose their religion on others. We're back on a downhill slide here. Time will tell what direction this takes.

No comments: