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Essays by KT

Keep the Laws!

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July 27th, 2006
Argumentation Essay
Freshman English I (ENGL100)

     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’” (Standard).

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 the laws.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

ADF: Alliance Defense Fund. n.d. Ten Commandments. 20 July 2006 <http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/main/general/print.aspx?cid=3170>

 

ADF: Alliance Defense Fund. n.d. The Separation of Church and State. 20 July 2006 <http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/main/general/print.aspx?cid=3166>

 

ADF: Alliance 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 2006 <http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html>

 

Positive Atheism Magazine. n.d. Which Ten Commandments? 20 July 2006 <http://www.positiveatheism.org/crt/whichcom.pdf>

 

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>

 

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