Ten Commandments letter to the editor
I live in a mid-sized MidWestern community with a good newspaper, The Pantagraph, which does a good job of publishing editorials from community leaders. A local pastor wrote one of those “We’re a Christian nation, the Ten Commandments are the basis of our law, etc.” editorials. This is my response:
I just read Rev. Knight Wells’ 16 July ‘From The Pulpit’ editorial; “Commandments basis of our legal traditions.” He writes: “The Ten Commandments have been the basis of our legal and constitutional traditions since this nation began.” Then he quotes Andy Rooney’s list of biblical engravings on buildings all over Washington.
If Rev. Wells’ point is that our country would do well to embrace Christianity, he has every right to make it. But he’s flat wrong about American legal tradition.
The United States Constitution, not the Ten Comandments, is the foundation of our legal system and traditions. Other than a reference to the date, our Constitution mentions God exactly zero times, while deriving the right of governance from the people.
Some (not all) of the founding fathers were men of faith, but their recent experience had convinced them that the government should not be in the religion business. They wrote this insight into the FIRST Amendment.
The Ten Commandments may be a fine thing, but the first four are plainly sectarian. Also, the popular version derives from a movie promotion campaign some years ago. Read the unvarnished King James Version in Exodus 34 – that would be the version our founding fathers knew best. Then ask yourself; “Is it the basis of constitutional law?”
If we have heard enough quotes from Andy Rooney, let me quote James Madison: “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” (1803)
The Constitution does protect religious displays on private property, at private expense.
Thank you, – GW
(Of course, I couldn’t sign it, “Decrepit Old Fool.” Such are the differences between blogging and editorializing on dead trees.)