Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Ten Commandments

I've read many articles and opinions lately regarding the Supreme Court's rulings regarding the posting of the Ten Commandments. Here's one great post critiquing Scalia's dissent in McCreary County v. ACLU. There's one point that I think is missing in some of this discussion. That is, the choice of the Ten Commandments is arbitrary and implies bias. [I'm sick of hearing conservatives use that word as an inherent insult of the media, so I'm using it as an insult of conservative activists.]

The influence of the Ten Commandments on the Framers is, at best, indirect. The strongest influence was the Magna Carta [what the text of the Magna Carta is doing on a computer science department's server is beyond me...]. "We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all the underwritten liberties[...]" Sounds a little like "inalienable rights" to me. The Magna Carta, truly, was influenced by the Ten Commandments, Christianity in general, etc. So why do Christians true to post the Ten Commandments in government buildings that do not have displays of the Magna Carta? Simply put, bias and proselytization. They are more interested in display of their religious views than actual historical influence.

I have a proposal for a quote for display in a courthouse or state capitol: "Perform your obligatory duty, because action is indeed better than inaction." It's a nice, inspirational message. It's from the Bhagavad Gita. Why the Gita? Well, Henry David Thoreau, one of the most enduringly influential American philosophers, was greatly influenced by the Gita and other Hindu texts. So, the Gita influenced Thoreau, who in turn has a large influence on American thought and culture. Therefore, the Gita influenced American thought and culture. And the quote is so inspirational. I can picture it over the entrance to the Senate as a nice reminder to Senators to get some work done instead of playing politics. So why should we not have this quote in such a place?

Because it is an arbitrary quote with religious connotations that are not appropriate as a special display in a secular building!!

I will change my views on this when I go into a Baptist church and see a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Or when every Ten Commandments display is dwarfed by one of the Magna Carta. This issue is not about suppressing religious expression. This is about calling bullshit on revisionist histories created by religious conservatives. This is about having appropriate displays of historical relevance in government buildings. And this is about preventing the de facto establishment of a sanctioned religion by the United States government.


At 7:21 PM, Blogger Nanette said...

Do I sense a little anxiety for liberal logic slipping through the world's fingers? Face it Mike, you're of a dying race, the Last of the Liberals. The trend probably will come back, maybe after our generation! Keep duking it out though, you say it better than I would.

Maybe I think this only because I live in Indianapolis suburbia and work at a bank. You think? I gotta get out of here.


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