Another Spat About A Religious Monument

Ten Commandments movie
The Puritans of the Colonial Era would have loved to live in Oklahoma, where religious disputes are a favorite pastime.

The current religious brouhaha in the Sooner State pertains to a religious monument that has been set up on the grounds of the state’s capitol.

Here is an excerpt of a June 30th AP report published by ABC News:

A Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is a religious symbol and must be removed because it violates the state’s constitutional ban on using public property to benefit a religion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court said the Ten Commandments chiseled into the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which was privately funded by a Republican legislator, are “obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.”

Defenders of the monument deny its overtly religious nature. In a commentary for the Red Dirt Report, political scientist and Oklahoma native Brian Woodward writes, “Among many of the flawed arguments that lawmakers are making regarding why the monument should be allowed to stand is that it is not a symbol of a religion but one of historical importance to this country. Somehow, they claim, Western law is significantly based on these commandments.”

In a commentary for FindLaw.com, law professor Marci Hamilton writes, “The claim that the Ten Commandments are the foundational source of American law defies history.” She concludes her commentary by saying, “When it comes to legal and religious history, Americans have proven themselves to be woefully ignorant. How else could such untruth about the Ten Commandments’ status as an influence on our law be so widely and uncritically repeated and accepted?”

Defenders of the monument in Oklahoma cite the SCOTUS case of Van Orden v. Perry as justification for allowing the monument to remain where it is, but they overlook the SCOTUS case of McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, which also deals with a display of the Ten Commandments. In the former case, a display of the Ten Commandments stood among 21 historical markers and 17 monuments surrounding the Texas State Capitol. In the latter case, a display of the Ten Commandments stood alone on government property, which is the current situation in Oklahoma. In the former case, the Court permitted the display to remain where it is. In the latter case, the Court ruled against the display being where it was.

This author will leave it to the reader to decide who is correct in this particular spat. Meanwhile, the author will be munching on plenty of popcorn while watching this dispute make its way through the legal system.


Originally posted at The Moderate Voice.

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  • Paul Hooson

    A couple of unrelated thoughts here:
    1.The Puritans did oppose open religious displays, relying on prayer and faith instead where even Christmas displays were banned by them.

    2. Strangely, Cecil B. Demille could not find any Jewish actors in Hollywood to portray Moses, but then finds a Jew, Yul Brenner to portray an Egyptian?

  • Scalia

    If you’re going to provide links to court cases, you should provide links for the entire case, not just the majority ruling. Both the Opinion and Dissent for McCreary may be found HERE.

    The Opinion rests upon a faulty understanding of the Establishment Clause. The actions of the First Congress make it obvious that “establishment” has nothing to do with said Court’s opinion. The insistence that said Clause mandates government neutrality between religion and non-religion is comical:

    Besides appealing to the demonstrably false principle that the government cannot favor religion over irreligion, today’s opinion suggests that the posting of the Ten Commandments violates the principle that the government cannot favor one religion over another . . .. That is indeed a valid principle where public aid or assistance to religion is concerned, . . . or where the free exercise of religion is at issue, . . . but it necessarily applies in a more limited sense to public acknowledgment of the Creator. If religion in the public forum had to be entirely nondenominational, there could be no religion in the public forum at all. One cannot say the word “God,” or “the Almighty,” one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs. With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists. (Justice Scalia)

    • jim_m

      David is only interested in bashing Christians and conservatives. Frankly, i dont understand why he doesnt post on the daily kos.

  • Porkopolis

    The Fernando Woods of the world are why an aggressive separation of public policy making with religious doctrine should be pursued.

    Who’s Fernando Wood you say? He’s the Congressman and former New York City mayor that made the following arguments (using the ‘Devine’ authority he felt himself empowered with (ethos rhetoric) against passing the 13th Amendment:

    “Congress must never declare equal those whom God created unequal.” (see: https://youtu.be/qiSAbAuLhqs )

    “The Almighty has fixed the distinction of the races; the Almighty has made the black man inferior, and, sir, by no legislation, by no military power, can you wipe out this distinction.” (see: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122513867582273213 )

    That’s why the Ten Commandments have no place in a setting where public policy is made. Some might think that they alone know how to interpret and make arguments based-on them that affect everyone; people of faith and people of the ‘commonwealth’ that don’t subscribe to the faith.

    • jim_m

      So I expect you to be sandblasting the Supreme Court bulding this weekend.

      Dumbass.

    • jim_m

      Yes because concepts like “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not commit murder” are purely religious concepts and have no place in our society. Stop this Christianist oppression and let me put a bullet in this idiot’s head! It ought to be legal!

      • Porkopolis

        That would not be in keeping with the Golden Rule…which, by the way, is being found to be a universal dynamic independent of religion:

        See: ‘Generous players: game theory explores the Golden Rule’s place in biology’: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Generous+players%3a+game+theory+explores+the+Golden+Rule's+place+in…-a0120525522

        • jim_m

          Idiot. The golden rule only states to do unto others as you would have them do to you.

          Societies have been formed on the basis of murdering their rivals. The golden rule does not preclude murder, stealing, rape or any crime or atrocity. The fact that you think it does so is an artifact of your western Christian cultural roots. Other cultures have maintained that a person rules until deposed, frequently by murder. Some SA Indian tribes lived with the understanding that it was acceptable to murder neighboring tribesman.

          Societies based on the use of force to hold and maintain power are perfectly compatible with the golden rule. You demonstrate very shallow thinking and a lack of an ability to correctly understand the logical consequence of your arguments.

          • Porkopolis

            Evidence was provided that clearly refutes the statement:

            “…”Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not commit murder” are purely religious concepts…”

            Nothing provided in that evidence supports the new claim:

            “…The golden rule does not preclude murder, stealing, rape or any crime or atrocity. The fact that you think it does so is an artifact of your western Christian cultural roots…”

            No concluson can be made on what ANY indivdual “think(s)” based solely on providing evidence that morality is a naturally evolved dynamic independent of (and preceding) religion.

            A more complete, holistic look at our capacity as humans to live BOTH in conflict AND cooperation (that is respectful of religions’ roll in our history) can be found in:

            The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule: http://www.michaelshermer.com/science-good-evil/

  • Mjolnir

    I don’t consider the display of the 10 Commandments to be a violation of the Constitution. It does not establish a national religion, nor does it infringe on the right of the people to freely practice their religion.

    Absent violating either of these provisions, the only thing left is the animus of anti-religious people. And didn’t the Supremes say that animus isn’t a good enough reason to prohibit things?

    • jim_m

      Exactly. They are a historical reference in the case of western government. But then the left wants to erase any trace of Christian thought and any concept of morality.