The laws that were delivered to man by God well over
3,000 years ago have become a topic of controversy. These same laws have been
the basis of civil law in the Western World for over 2,000 years. It seems odd
that the showing of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms has become such a debate in this generation when previous generations
never questioned the display of these laws. Since this debate has existed, I
have come across many reasons why those on the opposing side think that the Ten Commandments should not be displayed in courtrooms.
The most common argument that I have run across has
to do with the so-called separation of church and state. AU.org says that the
First Amendment requires that there is a separation of church and state (AU). This
is not true. “The term ‘separation of church and state’ is
found nowhere in the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or any other founding document of this nation,”
says the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF, “The Separation of Church and State”).
Nowhere in the First Amendment does it say, “separation of church and state”. The First Amendment states the following:
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. (LII)
The intention of this amendment was to make sure that
there was a differentiation between the church and the government. “The
government and the church were to be separate and distinct,” says the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF, “The True Meaning
of the First Amendment”). This would prevent the government from establishing
one religion for everyone. The government today has not, by any means, established
one religion for everyone; and the debate over the posting of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms is not an attempt to determine
one religion for the entire nation.
“America is religiously diverse,” says AU.org (AU). This is all too true: America
is a very diverse country, especially when it comes to religion; and we, as Americans, are very blessed to have such freedoms
that allow our nation to be so diverse. Religion is not the reason why the Ten
Commandments should be kept in courtrooms, though. The Commandments should be
posted in courtrooms to continue the American tradition and to honor the foundation upon which our nation has been built. It’s what our founding fathers would have wanted.
AU.org also states that there isn’t a “standard version” of the Ten Commandments
(AU). I have come across a variety of versions of the Ten Commandments. Just like there are different versions of the Bible, there are different versions
of the Ten Commandments. The different versions of the Bible have the same message
and similarly with the Ten Commandments.
Comparing the Ten Commandments of three different faiths—Protestant, Catholic, and Hebrew—at PositiveAitheism.org
(Positive Atheism Magazine), I see few differences. The Commandments are worded
a little differently, they are grouped differently, and they are in a slightly different order, but the basic commandments
of these three faiths are the same. According to Islam101.com (Islam101), the
Islamic faith also supports the Ten Commandments. Although they may not refer
to them as the Ten Commandments, they agree with them, as verses of the Quran resemble the Commandments’ teachings.
“The Ten Commandments are open to different interpretations,”
says AU.org (AU). This is very true. As
with many things, the Ten Commandments will be interpreted quite differently depending on the person who interprets them. This is not a problem. One Commandment
states that we are to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. If a person
believes that Saturday is the Sabbath Day, they should remember it and keep it holy.
If a person believes that any other day of the week is the Sabbath Day, they should do the same—remember it and
keep it holy.
AU.org says that in Stone v. Graham (1980) the
court “struck down” a state law that required public schools to display the Ten Commandments. Therefore, “the Supreme Court and lower courts have settled this issue” (AU). The courts have not settled this issue, though. This debate
is about the Commandments being posted in courtrooms not in schools. There is
a difference. Also, there is no law requiring
the Ten Commandments to be posted in courtrooms, rather there is an attempt to make a law requiring that the Ten Commandments
cannot be posted in the courtrooms.
There have been legal issues regarding the posting of the Commandments in courtrooms, however. Likely one of the most commonly known cases occurred in an Alabama courtroom when Judge Moore’s display of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom
created much debate.
Attorney General Bill Pryor, a defender of Judge Moore, described the inside of three United States courtrooms that he had visited.
“The first [was] in the old state capitol building in Pennsylvania,
one of the nation’s oldest courtrooms. The second [was] the United States
Supreme Court. The third [was] the courtroom of Judge Moore in Etowah County, [Alabama].” Judge Moore’s courtroom merely contains a “small wooden plaque”
of the Ten Commandments, while the other two courtrooms contain much bigger engravings of the Ten Commandments, as well as
“huge murals” of Jesus and other religious figures (Standard).
“‘Why is it that Judge Moore’s display, rather than the other displays,
has been targeted for prosecution?’ Pryor asked. The answer, he suggested,
is because Judge Moore is ‘a controversial figure—a Vietnam
veteran, a West Point graduate, and a Southern Baptist of very strong opinion.’ Judge Moore’s real problem may be that he ‘actually believes the Ten Commandments’”
Why should the Ten Commandments be taken out of courtrooms?
They merely show the foundation upon which our government has been built, and they create positive ethics for us. As the Alliance Defense Fund says, “The Ten Commandments have been the foundation
upon which much of America’s legal
system has been built. To deny this fact, one would have to rewrite American
history” (ADF, “Ten Commandments”). Why not honor our founding
fathers and their wishes? As George Washington, one of our founding fathers,
once said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Let’s keep the American tradition. Let’s keep
Defense Fund. n.d. Ten Commandments. 20 July 2006 <http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/main/general/print.aspx?cid=3170>
Defense Fund. n.d. The Separation of Church and State. 20 July 2006 <http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/main/general/print.aspx?cid=3166>
Defense Fund. n.d. The True Meaning of the First Amendment. 20 July 2006 <http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/main/general/print.aspx?cid=3208>
AU: Americans United for Separation of Church and State. n.d. Why The Ten Commandments
Shouldn’t Be Posted In Government Buildings. 20 July 2006 <http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=resources_faq_10Cs>
Islam101. 26 Aug. 2003. Islam Supports Bible’s TEN Commandments.
24 July 2006 <http://www.islam101.com/religions/TenCommandments/tcQuran.htm>
LII: Legal Information Institute. n.d. United States Constitution. 24 July
Positive Atheism Magazine. n.d. Which Ten Commandments? 20 July
Standard. 27 Oct. 1999. Debate Highlights Views on Ten Commandments Posted
in Courthouse. 24 July 2006 <http://www.baptiststandard.com/1999/10_27/pages/commandments.html>