No Other God:
Christians, Commandments, and the Court

In two important church-state rulings announced yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a Ten Commandments display in Texas, but struck down one in Kentucky. The court ruled that an outdoor public presentation of the Decalogue among other monuments on the Texas State Capitol grounds in Austin did not amount to an unconstitutional government promotion of religion. The majority justices said that while the Texas display was an acknowledgment of a sacred religious text by the government, the public exhibit did not cross the line into impermissible proselytizing.
But the high court reached a different conclusion in a Kentucky case involving displays on the walls of two county courthouses. The justices ruled 5 to 4 that public officials were not motivated by a necessary secular purpose in ordering the courthouse display and that the government officials in the case had acted in a way that sought to advance religion in violation of the separation of church and state.
While I ‘

Published by

Joe Carter

Joe Carter founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tribune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicaton.

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Bob Waters

    Why- assuming that display is simply an acknowledgment of the Decalogue’s role in the history of the Western legal tradition?
    Which- as I understand it- the Court recognized as quite proper. As I believe it should have, even while agreeing with the other decision as well. Where the Decalogue is a sectarian statement, it clearly has no place on public property under either the First Amendment or the proper, divinely- instituted purpose of government.

  • http://shortattnspan.knowinpart.org/ Kevin

    Trackback doesn’t seem to be working. Some thoughts here.

  • http://shortattnspan.knowinpart.org/ Kevin

    Err… sorry about that link. Better to right-click on it and open in a new tab or window.

  • Nick

    Why- assuming that display is simply an acknowledgment of the Decalogue’s role in the history of the Western legal tradition?
    What role?
    As Joe points out, most of the decalogue is irrelevant to western legal tradition. The first four commandments are specifically religious commands. For the few commandments that do map nicely onto western legal traditions, it is not obvious that their presence in our legal code is derived from the decalogue. Stealing and murdering, for instance, were also the subject of pre-Christian legal traditions in northern Europe, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find any legal system that didn’t include them.
    Joe is right: any claim that the decalogue is just a historical document should be problematic to Christians. They are a fundamental statement of God’s commands, and as such must be a sectarian religious document if we are to give them proper respect. If they have to be reduced to history in order to sneak them onto government property, then I think we’re better off if we don’t bother.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    Some comments here too. My biggest objection is the fact that most of the people who are adamant about it being displayed refuse to acknowledge the Grecko-Roman and Danish influence on our legal system. Roman and Dane law are probably far and away more influential in the foundation of our system than the 10 commandments.

  • http://beneaththedirtyhood.typepad.com/ Gary

    About “it is hard to argue that the Decalogue has been all that influential a document” and “most of the Decalogue is irrelevant to western legal tradition”–actually David Barton argues just that at http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=41
    Grab a Grande and scroll down thru the legal stuff to “How the 10 Commandments are expressed in civil law in American history.” There’s more at the same site.

  • http://www.leanleft.com/ tgirsch

    It’s also ironic that in their zeal to elevate Decalogues, the proponents of such monuments are breaking Commandment #2.

  • http://criesinthenight.blogspot.com Shipwrecked

    Joe C,
    Great post. It’s important that we keep things in perspective. That said I do have some minor points to quibble over, as I lay out here.

  • Jack

    The truth is that the struggle over the display is not about the text as text as a meaningfully authoritative document but rather as a symbol of religion in the public square. Unfortunately, too many Christians are more concerned about winning a symbolic victory involving the Decalogue than they are in obeying the actual commandments. Because the only displays that are considered constitutional are those that have been denatured of their religious connotations, Christians are agreeing that the

  • http://otreviews.blogspot.com Phil Aldridge

    I’m a conservative Christian and I seriously don’t really care whether or not we can have a Ten Commandments display in a courthouse.
    I understand, judicial tyranny, Christian heritage, so on and so forth, but really, who cares if there’s no Moses at the county court?
    Here’s my idea that I’ve been kicking around on other blogs: The religious displays in the courthouses are often gorgeous. Instead of demolishing them, why not move them into modern evangelical churches which typically have no religious iconography of any kind?
    It is a sad day when a secular institutions like the Supreme Court have better religious art than modern churches. I say move the displays into the churches where people will appreciate them anyway. Having some scummy lawyer like Cochran or Geragos arguing to keep killers and pedophiles out of prison in front of the very words of God is just offensive anyway.
    And Tgirsch, I hope you don’t honestly think that the 2nd Commandment refers to all graven images for any reason, especially since the Israelites carved many graven images for the Tabernacle to glorify God (which he approved of, by the way).

  • http://http//mixingmemory.blogspot.com Chris

    Since I usually only chime in when I disagree with Joe, I thought I should note that in this case, I agree with him 100%. I’ve always argued that most of the commandments are not relevant to secular law, and that since several of them are quite exclusively religious (i.e., they’re not simply monotheistic, but are quite specific to Judeo-Christian theology), they don’t belong in courtrooms (or on the grounds of the Texas capitol). It’d be nice of more Christians recognized this.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    I think the primary issue is the systematic purging of references to our cultural heritage, whether it be Ten Commandments monuments, or crosses on county symbols, or saying the word ‘God’ in the pledge, or singing a Christmas hymn. The commandments remain as powerful a testament to truth as they ever were, regardless of the courts ruling; it is our society that has been ‘denatured’.

    But isn’t “cultural heritage” in your post just a coded phrase for “my Christianity”? And I’m sorry, but “under God” in the pledge can’t be really be counted as that, it’s only been around since the 50’s. In a sense, to alter it for political purposes in the first place was more disrespectful than trying to correct it back to its original form.
    Some of the Founding Fathers had views that might surprise you. Madison for example thought that Churches should be taxed. He also thought that having military and Congressional Chaplains was a bad idea. And he did not want the US government to recognize religious holidays in any way.
    Keep in mind he was an extremely religious man. He wanted to these things not in order to remove religion from the public sphere, but rather he wanted to protect his religion from Government interference.
    I think that Christians need to take a good hard look at what they are doing. It’s fine to pass laws that respect your values, so long as they respect the inherent human dignity of others, but to try and put specific religious tenets into Government is a bad idea. It’s a two way street.
    Look at faith-based funding for example. No matter how many pledges are written into law regarding the program, Government still has a say in what a Church does or does not do, simply by holding the purse strings. It’s like asking Jesse James to hold your wallet for you. Even if he promises he won’t steal from you its a bad idea don’t you think? Do you really want to trust the Governments “beneficent nature” to control itself when it comes to exerting pressure on your religion? It’s just not in the nature of the beast.

  • http://criesinthenight.blogspot.com Shipwrecked

    Pat,
    I hear some of what you’re saying, but if you take an originalist view of the constitution – which is the most intellectually defensible – its difficult to argue the Founders would expel all religion from the public square, as we are seeing.
    Given their actions (hiring chaplains, opening with prayer, multiple references to a God/Maker/Creator/Higher Authority, etc.) it is difficult to make the case that the Constitution doesn’t permit the recognition of a higher authority. However, what we may need is a better understanding of pluralism and religious liberty.
    Religious liberty means being free to select and practice your faith as you see fit. Government must take a non-sectarian approach appropriate to the context if it is going to endorse a creator. In a fully Christian society this means endorsing Christianity but not Catholicism, Calvinism, and so on. By endorsing Christianity – broadly speaking – and through that implicitly having its citizens recognize Christianity, it is not imposing a selection of faith on anyone as everyone is already on that same page.
    In contrast, in today’s society filled with many faiths, the adoption of Christianity by the government would have citizens implicitly being Christians because they are members of the State. Thus the state, to maintain a pluralism that accomodates the many-faithed citizenry, must adopt a broader stance on religion… perhaps an endorsement of theism. This leaves the specific theistic view up to the individual citizen, just as in a wholly Christian society the choice of which sect is left up to the citizen.
    Then here comes the $1,000,000 question: what about the inclusion of atheism, as it is noncompatible with a theistic view? If we hold atheism to be a religion in itself, by defining religion as a set of beliefs, then the state can no more adopt the atheistic view than theistic one. For holding the former isolates theists and the latter atheists. Therefore, at this juncture I think it becomes a question of leaving it to the majority on each given level of government. On the federal level it is a question for the whole American nation. On the local level, a question for each county or city.

  • http://http//mixingmemory.blogspot.com Chris

    Ship, why, again, is the originalist interpretation the most intellectually defensible?

  • http://criesinthenight.blogspot.com Shipwrecked

    That’s really a conversation for another post, but the basic reason is that it makes the most sense. Read the document, as it was written. No penumbras, emanations, citing of foreign laws and constitutions, or other invention of rights. No looking at intent, when each of the 535 people who voted for a law could have different intent. Just what is written. It’s the only consistent way to apply the law, and thus the most intellectually defensible. If you really want to get into this, go read some Bork, Scalia, or Thomas first.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    Jack:
    Patrick already addressed the pledge issue, so I’ll let that one go. But the “systematic purging” of which you speak is largely imagined. Displays which have been there for quite some time, such as the one in Texas, have generally been allowed to stand; it’s usually new displays, like those in Kentucky, that get rejected. And those displays are explicitly intended to inject more religion into the public square, not just to protect against some imagined purge-fest.
    And in any case, what would be so horribly wrong with purging such symbols from government property? You’d still be free to post whatever you want in your homes and churches and even buy billboards and ad space if you wanted to, and you wouldn’t need to get some bureaucrat’s approval, and you wouldn’t have to try to find a version that doesn’t offend anyone. This could only enhance your free exercise rights.
    Phil:
    No, the sin is in worshipping the idol instead of the thing it’s supposed to represent. Which, IMO, is what many of these Commandments proponents — particularly the Roy Moores of the world — are guilty of.
    But actually, some sects take the commandment to mean that ALL graven images are forbidden, except those explicitly authorized by God.
    Shipwrecked:
    You ignore the fact that the original intent is often unclear and, in fact, often intentionally vague. The Constitution is a document rife with compromises. No, the correct way to read the Constitution is based on what it says (and considering the practical implications of what it says), rather than trying to figure out what a bunch of guys two and a quarter centuries ago meant when they wrote “arms.”
    Of course, if you admit original intent as admissible, then you have to concede that the framers intended the total (or, at least, near total) separation of church and state. The writings of Jefferson and Madison make this abundantly clear. And they would clearly take issue with this statement of yours:

    By endorsing Christianity – broadly speaking – and through that implicitly having its citizens recognize Christianity, it is not imposing a selection of faith on anyone as everyone is already on that same page.

    Not according to Madison, who wrote:

    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?

    More on this.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    As to the inclusion of atheism, I don’t see how it’s relevant. The government must remain scrupulously neutral on religion, neither encouraging nor discouraging it. If the government somehow endorsed atheism, that would be taking a side, when what it ought to be doing is refusing to take sides. As soon as you post one version or another of the Ten Commandments, you have most certainly taken sides. By not posting the Commandments on government property, but allowing people to worship/post/etc. as they please on their own property and in their own churches, the government stays out of the whole mess, and allows people to worship as their conscience dictates.
    This is why secular government is so important: true religious liberty is impossible without it.
    In fact, I’d argue (and often have argued) that the amount of religiosity in the US is precisely because of our doctrine of separation, not in spite of it.

  • http://otreviews.blogspot.com Phil Aldridge

    Tgirsch –
    Heh, I have to apologize, I missed the nuance in what you were saying.
    There has been a rash of people around the blogosphere going “Hyuk hyuk, the 10Cs are graven images which is against the 10Cs!” which is cute but idiotic.
    Your point, on the other hand – Christians worshipping the graven image of the 10Cs – is much more interesting and worthwhile.
    For me personally, saying that removing the 10C’s from a courtroom is anti-American Culture makes about as much sense as saying that removing a pornography shop from a strip mall is anti-Marriage.

  • I am a friend of God

    Do we really understand that it is not about the physical world and its standards? For as christians who have been converted the word states what we face it this:
    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities,against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickness in high places. Ephesians 6:12
    So those whom are heirs to salvation let your eyes and ears see and hear in the name of Jesus.

  • Jack

    But isn’t “cultural heritage” in your post just a coded phrase for “my Christianity”? And I’m sorry, but “under God” in the pledge can’t be really be counted as that, it’s only been around since the 50’s. In a sense, to alter it for political purposes in the first place was more disrespectful than trying to correct it back to its original form.
    No, not ‘my Christianity’ since the Ten Commandments, you might be surprised to hear, didn’t originate with the Christianity. I am not of course concerned either with ‘how long it’s been around’ but that a particular practice, or object (like the LA county seal), which was once seen as either beneficial or quite ordinary, is now seen as somehow harmful.

    Some of the Founding Fathers had views that might surprise you. Madison for example thought that Churches should be taxed. He also thought that having military and Congressional Chaplains was a bad idea. And he did not want the US government to recognize religious holidays in any way.

    Keep in mind he was an extremely religious man. He wanted to these things not in order to remove religion from the public sphere, but rather he wanted to protect his religion from Government interference.
    Well, no, their views don’t suprise me. But your use of them is somewhat disingenious; would you be amenable to the degree of religious expression in public life and influence which churches wielded in the late 18th and early 19th American cultures?
    I think that Christians need to take a good hard look at what they are doing. It’s fine to pass laws that respect your values, so long as they respect the inherent human dignity of others, but to try and put specific religious tenets into Government is a bad idea. It’s a two way street.
    How do the Ten Commandments offend human dignity?
    Look at faith-based funding for example. No matter how many pledges are written into law regarding the program, Government still has a say in what a Church does or does not do, simply by holding the purse strings. It’s like asking Jesse James to hold your wallet for you. Even if he promises he won’t steal from you its a bad idea don’t you think? Do you really want to trust the Governments “beneficent nature” to control itself when it comes to exerting pressure on your religion? It’s just not in the nature of the beast.
    I might be inclined to agree with you concerning government infusions of cash into religious institutions (though the people who generally dislike this seem not to mind government infusions of cash into every other institution), this hardly applies to displays like the Ten Commandments.

  • jdeger

    The comments above are interesting, but I think the whole decalogue issue is controversial because there are many that are concerned about preserving the grounding of our nation in;
    1) Acknowledgement of where those much vaunted rights this nation was premised on, come from (our Creator, not government). The founders would have been familiar with the Old Testament warning to those who would become forgetful or presumptuous… “Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from serving as My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your sons.”
    2) A morality that is absolute (although perhaps not always perfectly understood or interpreted), as opposed to a morality that is whatever we, or international courts happen to say it is, at the given moment (moral relativism). The apostle Paul explained that when he outlined the simple premise of an ideal government… “Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do good and you will have its approval.”
    With that said, it is also clear that the founders generally had in mind a nation that acknowledged God in its character and intent, while being tolerant of citizens that didn’t. After the way the church had abused its power in Europe, they rightly wanted to leave the specific denominational issues alone, and let people sort that out for themselves. That makes
    sense, in that any Christian recognizes that following Christ has to be a personal choice and
    commitment, not a mandate from another imperfect individual or group.
    But what you have today is the reverse, and that is what has brought the so-called “religous right” out into more active participation in the political process. Secular humanism has quickly become the national religion, enforced in schools, workplaces, and the public square, with little tolerance for Christianity. The whole ten commandments issue is just one small symptom of that whole trend. As a nation we find ourselves falling all over ourselves not to offend anyone by actually having the decalogue on government property, while mandating secularism anywhere and everywhere.

  • http://www.pseudopolymath.com Mark Olson

    BTW, trackback still is out. Here is an essay which uses this one as a jump off point. It’s be my Christian Carnival entry too.

  • http://travis17blog.blogspot.com Travis

    A few great quotes that apply here:
    “We have staked the whole future of American civilazation not on the power of goverment, far for it. We have staked the futureof all our political inutionsupon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God”
    James Madison
    “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this, that it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil goverment with the priciples of Christainity.”
    John Quincy Adams
    It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians not on religions but on the gosple of Jesus Christ.
    Patrick Henry
    The Blogging Boy Scout,
    Travis

  • http://criesinthenight.blogspot.com Shipwrecked

    I don’t want to get into it too much, because its not pertinent to the post, but for anyone who thinks Originalist jurisprudence means a strict separation of religion and state is either illiterate or has not read any dissents by its two most important practicioners, Judges Thomas and Scalia.
    For more on this, pick up a copy of Scalia Dissents or just read his dissent on Lee v. Weisman, found here.
    The assertion that an originalist reading of the Constitution requires a wall of separation is unfounded, disingenuous, and flat out wrong.

  • http://www.leanleft.com/ tgirsch

    Travis:
    If you’re going to quote stuff, try quoting things they actually said instead of invented Madison quotes. And your John Quincy Adams quote is also probably false. The Patrick Henry quote, at least, appears to be legitimate, but then Patrick Henry was an opponent of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights was included in large part to appease him.
    Shipwrecked:
    Such a reading is not flat out wrong — it’s the subject of a great deal of debate. Prithee, if acknowledgement of God without preferring this religion or that was okay with the founders, then why didn’t they actually bother to acknowledge that God in the Constitution itself?
    All Scalia’s dissent proves is that we haven’t historically lived up to the standards set in the Constitution by the framers.
    And way to completely ignore my Madison quote that I offered up as a counterexample, by the way. The quote I gave above comes from Memorial and Remonstrance. In fact, Madison said all kinds of things about church and state, most of them on the side of strict separation. But hey, who cares what Madison and Jefferson thought, when you can fall back on what George Clymer thought? (And no, I don’t actually know what Clymer thought…)

  • http://jonrowe.blogspot.com Jon Rowe

    No the Patrick Henry quote is false as well. I debunked it here.
    So Travis is 0/3.
    Someone above mentioned the name “David Barton.” David Barton is a moron. He’s the one who is responsible for spreading all of these phony quotes.

  • http://criesinthenight.blogspot.com Shipwrecked

    Tgirsch,
    As I’ve said before, the conversation over originalism isn’t really germane to this post. In fact, Joe C says “I

  • jdeger

    Jon Rowe: “So Travis is 0/3. Someone above mentioned the name “David Barton.” David Barton is a moron. He’s the one who is responsible for spreading all of these phony quotes.”
    Follow the links and what do you see? Same old liberal style tactics again: trash the messenger of anything you don’t like by questioning his pedigree (guess anyone who’s not a professor should shut up, eh?), questioning his motives (anyone who makes a living by what he writes must be suspect!), and tossing in a few epithets and smears just for good measure.
    I don’t know Barton nor can I vouch for everything he has written or said, but to be fair Barton does address many of the criticisms leveled at him by those completely pure and objective folks (sarc) like Rob Boston (paid to be a skeptic) here:
    http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=20
    Form your own conclusions.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    Jdeger:
    If the quotes are indeed phony, then the criticisms of Barton are valid.

  • http://jonrowe.blogspot.com Jon Rowe

    Yup — that’s Barton’s mea culpa where he admits that he has no evidence that those Founders said what he quoted.
    From Barton’s article:
    “1. It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! — Patrick Henry (unconfirmed)
    “[Barton]: Few could dispute that this quotation is consistent with Henry’s life and character.”
    As I’ve aptly demonstrated, Henry would never refer to the US as a “great nation.” He was a militant anti-federalist who voted against the US Constitution particularly objecting to the phrase, “we the people of the United States,” (he preferred “We, the states”) because this implied one “great consolidated government,” which Henry regarded as “pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous.” Henry made it clear that he preferred “a confederation” with “the States” as “agents of this compact.”

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    Well, except for the “moron” part. That, if anything, is giving Barton the benefit of the doubt, because the alternative is that he’s being deliberately misleading.

  • jdeger

    Jon Rowe: “Yup — that’s Barton’s mea culpa where he admits that he has no evidence that those Founders said what he quoted.”
    Wow, talk about misrepresentation! Barton answers the questions raised about a small portion of his original work, in some cases showing that it was correct, in others showing that it can’t be traced to a sufficiently original/well-documented source. He hardly admits that he has no evidence for anything he has done. Now who’s being dishonest Jon?
    Tgirsch: “Well, except for the “moron” part. That, if anything, is giving Barton the benefit of the doubt, because the alternative is that he’s being deliberately misleading.”
    Thanks for proving my point about the typical liberal approach to an argument: smear the messenger and move on.
    A small quote from the above site sums it up nicely…
    “As the Church/state debates continue, we are all called to a higher standard of scholarship. Advocates of a secular society use the slightest discrepancy to advance their own intolerant and bigoted agenda. Ignoring their own weaknesses and failures, they attempt to discredit both the message and messenger of America’s religious history.”

  • http://www.discusstheology.com Ron Smith

    The arrogance of human court passing a law and a statement about the Divine law is absurd. It is much like a mouse telling an elephant where he can walk.

  • http://www.intellectualconservative.com/article4086.html novello

    Jon Rowe: “As I’ve aptly demonstrated, Henry would never refer to the US as a ‘great nation.’ … Henry made it clear that he preferred “a confederation” with “the States” as “agents of this compact.”
    So in your logic, since Henry was a strong proponent of federalism, he would never use the phrase ‘great nation’? Pretty lame argument to attack David Barton with I think.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    But what you have today is the reverse, and that is what has brought the so-called “religious right” out into more active participation in the political process. Secular humanism has quickly become the national religion, enforced in schools, workplaces, and the public square, with little tolerance for Christianity.

    I’m sorry but this sounds more like a Focus on the Family press release rather than a true argument. For one thing, how do you propose to reconcile your statement of “Secular Humanism has…become the national religion” with the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God? Atheists are a tiny minority in this country. This is an argument between different groups of believers, not between believers and atheists.
    And as for your statement; “…little tolerance of Christianity”. Can you please give a specific event where the government walked into your personal life and dictated to you that you could practice your Christianity? In what ways has Christianity been attacked by the government? In what specific ways have Christians actually been stopped from practicing their Faith? Can you name specific examples that demonstrate an overall intention by Government to prevent you from going to Church? Or can you describe exactly how the Government is physically preventing you from praying?
    What I see is not a reaction of Christians against secularism. What I see is that Christians of a particular bent wish to force their version of Christianity on everyone else. Instead of actually taking the time to convince others to follow Christ in the ways they approve of, they are instead trying to remove the choice, to proselytize by government enforced fiat. To remove any other choice but their version of Christianity from marketplace of ideas.
    And you are being dishonest about what you are trying to accomplish. This isn’t about recognizing the historical place Christianity has had in the USA. This isn’t about the past. Its about what you want the future to look like. And I think what you want is for your religion to be reflected and enforced by our Government. And that is “our” Government, not yours alone. Although you certainly don’t want to recognize that fact. You are not interested in the slightest in respecting my beliefs, unless they are exactly the same as yours.
    You may win, but how soon before you fall into bickering among yourselves? Then will anyone be truly free to practice their religion as they see fit? It’s not just the freedom of choice for others you are destroying, it is your own.

  • Larry Lord

    “Secular humanism has quickly become the national religion, enforced in schools, workplaces, and the public square, with little tolerance for Christianity”
    Pure garbage.
    Try watching a professional sport event or a Congressional hearing on TV and see how little Christianity is “tolerated” in American public life.
    Of course, false statements such as that in quotes above have a purpose: agitating the rubes. That is why it is not unreasonable to call such statements lies — the likely intent of the speaker is easy to assess.
    Which brings us back to that age old question of what is the point of all this Ten Commandments nonsense when the loudest-mouthed followers of Jesus don’t even pay attention to its message.
    Thou shalt not bear false witness.

  • http://travis17blog.blogspot.com Travis

    Dear Sirs,
    Thank you so much for pointing out this link to me.
    http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=20
    Mr. Barton has shed light on this topic for me and all to see. The quotes are historical but would not stand up in a court of law. I am sorry for relying on them to prove my point as they are as of yet contested quotes. As such I should like to say that I have grown from this experience and shall go forth armed with the valid quotes given by Mr. Barton in this article.
    http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=21
    I wish you all a good day and again many thanks for pointing out the flaw in my armor as it were. I go forth encouraged in Christ.
    I would also recommend Mr. Barton’s work on Separation of Church and State if you would care to read it.
    http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=9
    The Blogging Boy Scout,
    Travis

  • brandon

    tgirsch:
    Of course, if you admit original intent as admissible, then you have to concede that the framers intended the total (or, at least, near total) separation of church and state. The writings of Jefferson and Madison make this abundantly clear. And they would clearly take issue with this statement of yours:
    By endorsing Christianity – broadly speaking – and through that implicitly having its citizens recognize Christianity, it is not imposing a selection of faith on anyone as everyone is already on that same page.
    Not according to Madison, who wrote:
    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?
    I think there is a distinction between endorsement and establishment. I believe your Madison quote was in reference to the Virginia legislature’s tax laws that provided tax money directly to the Anglican church. That is a far cry from acknowleding certain precepts and beliefs as being right or good. Further, I think that Shipwrecked’s point was to say what a society composed essentially entirely of Christians (of any stripe) would have the government do with respect to acknowledgement of religion. He proceeds then to discuss what that government would do if the society was composed of Christians and people who had other beliefs, taking it so far as to include atheists.

  • jeger

    Patrick: “In what ways has Christianity been attacked by the government? In what specific ways have Christians actually been stopped from practicing their Faith?”
    Glad you asked…
    From David Limbaugh’s book:

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Religious liberty means being free to select and practice your faith as you see fit. Government must take a non-sectarian approach appropriate to the context if it is going to endorse a creator. In a fully Christian society this means endorsing Christianity but not Catholicism, Calvinism, and so on. By endorsing Christianity – broadly speaking – and through that implicitly having its citizens recognize Christianity, it is not imposing a selection of faith on anyone as everyone is already on that same page.
    In contrast, in today’s society filled with many faiths, the adoption of Christianity by the government would have citizens implicitly being Christians because they are members of the State. Thus the state, to maintain a pluralism that accomodates the many-faithed citizenry, must adopt a broader stance on religion… perhaps an endorsement of theism. This leaves the specific theistic view up to the individual citizen, just as in a wholly Christian society the choice of which sect is left up to the citizen.

    What does this mean? Does the gov’t endorse a faith or group of faiths the way Tom Cruise endorses a breakfast cereal? Where is the tipping point at which a sufficient number of non-christians are in society so as to require gov’t to shift from a ‘Christian endorsement’ to a ‘theistic’ one? I’d like to hear your number and how you derive it since you endorse an ‘originialist’ view of the Constitution.
    Therefore, at this juncture I think it becomes a question of leaving it to the majority on each given level of government. On the federal level it is a question for the whole American nation. On the local level, a question for each county or city.
    Which would be the case if we didn’t have the First Amendment. However the First clearly states that the gov’t cannot endorse or infringe on religious belief regardless of what the majority feels.
    But isn’t “cultural heritage” in your post just a coded phrase for “my Christianity”?….
    It amazes me that Christians would resort to the ‘culture’ argument. The Ten Commandments are a religious document and religious doctrine, not a classic comic book that was first published in 1932!
    But what you have today is the reverse, and that is what has brought the so-called “religous right” out into more active participation in the political process. Secular humanism has quickly become the national religion, enforced in schools, workplaces, and the public square, with little tolerance for Christianity. The whole ten commandments issue is just one small symptom of that whole trend. As a nation we find ourselves falling all over ourselves not to offend anyone by actually having the decalogue on government property, while mandating secularism anywhere and everywhere.
    Interesting that not having the Ten Commandments in a court house is intolerant of Christianity. What would Christians make of a monument to athiesm in a court house? How about a statue of a famous athiest with an inscription saying “This guy was great because he said God didn’t exist” (NOTE I’m excluding monuments to people who might have been athiest but are being honored for something else like discovering something etc.). It would seem pretty hard to see how Christians and others would NOT be offended by that. Yet if it was removed would that be discrimination against athiests?

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    jeger,
    No doubt the above selection of examples is a mix of fact, fiction and urban legend. I would put forth a large chunk of your examples are:
    1. Not gov’t officials so much as regular people (granted a public school teacher is technically a gov’t employee).
    2. People most likely mis-reading what the actual case law is regarding religion.
    As part of this second point I would put forth that one of the prime villians here are not secularists but right wing groups themselves! They, after all, spend a great deal of time and energy screaming that the courts have ‘banned religion’ from the public schools. Is it any surprise to learn some teachers (who, after all, are mostly regular people with only slightly more than average education) might have taken them seriously and believed a kid talking about religion needed to be stopped least a lawsuit blow up?
    A third point is that it is well recognized that teachers and other figures have the authority to limit behavior and freedom inside school if doing so is necessary for good order. They may, for example, prohibit discussions of current events if it happens to be a ‘hot topic’ that may result in a lot of arguing and other problems. A police officer patrolling the town’s park, though, has no such authority.
    There are cases where things go too far however I think the issue is more of how stringent do you want to be when you assert that gov’t must be neutral on religion….not whether religous displays are contrary to some sort of made up ‘secular religion’ that has somehow become the state church. Public schools are a magnet for these sorts of things because they are naturally a mix of both gov’t and private service.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    jdeger:

    Thanks for proving my point about the typical liberal approach to an argument: smear the messenger and move on.

    You seem to mistake attacking the messenger in addition to the message for attacking the messenger instead of the message. And if you think smear tactics are exclusively in the liberal domain, you obviously haven’t paid any attention at all to the current administration… (that, or you somehow think they’re “liberal.”)
    Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, anyone who knowingly spreads fabricated quotes to make their point is deserving of scorn.
    novello:
    If that were the sole thrust of Rowe’s attack, you might have a point, but it’s not. Notice that Barton is unable to defend the veracity of the statement attributed to Henry. Since the statement is highly inconsistent with verified Henry writings/statements, and since Barton is wholly unable to authenticate the statement, I’d say Rowe has an excellent point. Now, of course, if you could substantiate the purported Henry statement, you would resoundingly prove both me and Rowe wrong. Hop to it!
    Patrick:

    Atheists are a tiny minority in this country.

    And, it bears pointing out, Secular Humanists are but a small subset of atheists. Otherwise you’re spot-on.
    Travis:
    What?!? Despite the fact that you know the quotes are almost certainly fabricated, you’re going to go ahead and rely on them anyway? That sounds nothing at all like intellectual honesty to me! (Then again, you never claimed to be concerned with intellectual honesty.)
    Brandon:

    I think there is a distinction between endorsement and establishment. I believe your Madison quote was in reference to the Virginia legislature’s tax laws that provided tax money directly to the Anglican church. That is a far cry from acknowleding certain precepts and beliefs as being right or good.

    Well, if that were the only Madison quote on the matter, you might have a point. But when you look at the totality of Madison’s quotations and writings (where, among other things, he talks about the “total separation of the church & the state”), coupled with the fact that the Constitution he had such a large hand in drafting was scrupulously secular, it’s not too difficult to infer what his ideological preference here was, even if he didn’t always live by it.
    And in any case, the difference between endorsement and establishment is not so stark as you’d like to imply. Like it or not, the government edorsing one religion (or even a group of religions) has the effect of relegating those citizens who do not adhere to such religion(s) to a second-class status, and that’s impermissible.
    jeger:
    What’s interesting is what Limbaugh leaves out. Kent’s order was specific to prayer at a public school graduation ceremony, where long-standing precedent prohibits sectarian prayer. What Kent was trying to prevent was someone turning what’s supposed to be an inclusive event for all graduates into an event that excludes non-Christians (and, honestly, even some Christians). The problem in this case (and cases like it) is where you have Constitutional protections that come into conflict. Here we have a student’s first amendment free speech and free exercise rights coming into conflict with prohibitions on endorsement of religion and the free exercise rights of the other students present — those other students who don’t share the religious beliefs of the one giving the prayer have a choice of tolerating it, joining in, or abstaining from the ceremony entirely. The dictates of conscience should not allow such a scenario.
    (Personally, on graduation speeches, I would favor allowing a student speaker to thank Jesus on his or her own behalf if so inclined, but not allow them to lead the group in prayer or ask others to do likewise in that scenario.)
    Last, on the Kent situation, I question the veracity of the story altogether, since in all the references I can find, the statement is quoted without any case cites. I can’t even find the name of the case in question.
    As to your other examples, there are varying degrees of legitimacy to the complaints there. I’d like to see specific cites on those to know if (a) they’re not fabricated; and (b) they were upheld, if challenged. If true, I’d agree that several of them go too far, but I seriously doubt these are typical or even common examples.
    I wholly oppose any attempt to prevent anyone from practicing their religion as they see fit, provided they don’t do so in their official capacities or try to compel or pressure anyone else to join them. The line, to me, is pretty clear: personal exercise is fine; voluntary group exercise is fine, within reasoned limits (e.g. you don’t get to hijack some other event to use as a podium for your “voluntary” exercise); official exercise, pressure, compulsion, etc., are off-limits.
    As to your personal example, it’s mostly an appropriate response, as far as I’m concerned, because students should not be allowed to use classroom exercises as an attempt to proselytize to their fellow students. I’d about guarantee that you’d get your panties in a twist if some student went in front of your son’s class explaining why Allah is the only God and Mohammed is his prophet, even if your son were allowed to do his Jesus spiel.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Let’s look at one case in detail:

  • http://travis17blog.blogspot.com Travis

    tgirsch,
    Not the quotes that are in question. Just the proven quotes I mentioned located here.
    http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=21
    Does that make sense?
    The Blogging Boy Scout,
    Travis

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    My son’s elementary school class was recently asked to write an essay on which person in history they thought was most unique and contributed most to our civilization. He chose to write about Jesus. But when asking permission from his teacher whether this would be allowed, he was told: “only if you insure that you never mention anything that might claim he was divine, or did miracles, or was anything but a man, or that the accounts in the Bible about him were true.”

    He was asked to write about a historical figure. Santa Claus also fits the bill. So would it be OK for me to write about Santa Claus at the North Pole as if he was real?
    Like it or not there is a debate as to whether Jesus actually existed or was a mythological figure. There is no debate about whether Thomas Edison or George Washington or Thomas Jefferson existed. Your son could have chosen any of those and even discussed their religious beliefs in great detail.
    In the context of a historical biographical essay the teachers request is quite reasonable. And note that your son was not actually forbidden to write about Jesus. In fact this was a chance for your son to review and learn the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, of which there is a great deal.
    Besides, even the Bible says Jesus was also a man. What wrong with learning about that side of him? Or does Jesus always have to have “special effects” to be real or have value? In the long run, his words were much more important than his miracles.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Again is this a case of religious discrimination or is it a case of a teacher putting restrictions on what choices could be used for a report? There are plenty of reasons for not letting a student do a historical report on Jesus. For one thing, using the Bible as a historical document is a complicated issue with involved arguments on both sides. An elementary and even High School teacher can quite reasonably deem the topic too advanced for a student even if they had no particular bias against Christianity or in favor of secularism. Another issue is that such a report may be disruptive. If it was done properly the student would have to examine sources critical of Jesus. This could easily cause a larger scandal when the student comes home and tells his parents that he must read some articles or books by those advocating he not believe in Jesus.
    On the college level this is not a big deal but it sounds like the underlying purpose of the assignment is not to learn a great deal about a historical figure or do groundbreaking research on one but to:
    1. build up writing skills.
    2. build up report writing skills
    3. learn to use and balance different sources
    4. possibly get a small introduction to what academic historians do
    It is reasonable for a teacher to veto a student’s choice if she feels it will do a poor job advancing these goals.

  • John

    Since the Supreme Court has ruled the inclusion of The 10 Comandments in public life unconstitutional, can we get Barry Land to move to repeal all laws – local, state and federal – which outlaw murder(#6) and theft (#8)? The others already have no earthly consequences. People even get away with perjury (a la Clinton).
    We have states destroying marriage in the name of anti-religion. Since Mr. Land is so concerned about any and all possible religious connections in public life, it seems logical for him to progress to the two commands mentioned above…No?

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    John,
    I’d be careful about using the word ‘logic’ or ‘logical’ in your posts. I don’t think you’re yet up for the challenge.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick (Gryph)

    “We have states destroying marriage in the name of anti-religion.”

    Anti-Religion.? If you are referring to Spain, thats actually what they call a “Democracy”. You must be from Cuba or someplace that doesn’t have one of those.
    I notice that Johns e-mail actually starts with the word “Melon”.
    -Nuff Said.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    John:
    Um, this follows how? Just because everyone doesn’t agree with all ten commandments, we should throw out the two we can agree upon? That seems silly.
    And I think you mean Barry Lynn. Far from being hostile to Christianity, he’s an ordained and practicing minister in the United Church of Christ.
    Or did you maybe mean Richard Land?

  • John

    I meant Barry Land… and being an ordained minister means nothing these days. Look at Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Land. Jesse and Al support abortion rights, homosexual marriage and government sponsored racism (a.k.a.- Affirmative Action). Land has been hostile to every public display/afirmation of religion (ESPECIALLY Christianity) in the last 5 to 10 years. His hero, Madeline Murray O’Hare would be extremely proud. Check out the UCC.org site, their Mission Statement says that “from the beginning of our history, we were a church that affirmed the ideal that Christians did not always have to agree to live together in communion,” speaks to what Land is doing, ie trying to destroy unity of the body of Christ.
    I wasn’t ONLY referring to Spain…Massachussetts and Canada qualify as well. You speak of “Democracy” as if any place had a true democracy. The majority of the people of the U.S. think abortion is wrong, but in a REPRESENTATIVE democracy they cannot get laws passed to outlaw it. The majority of Spaniards and Canadians do not agree with homo marriage, but their elected representatives want to appease the minority.

  • John

    Boonton, a quick look at your blog and one can see that you do not understand logic as the rest of us do. You suffer with the same astigmatism/myopia as your heroes Kerry, Kennedy, Clinton (both) and Durbin. All psuedo-Intellectals and self-professing Christians with no real signs of knowledge of Christianity through their actions.
    For some reason, this blog appeals to your and your ilk.?.?.?