Skip to comments.Judgment Day looms for US Supreme Court on Ten Commandments cases
Posted on 06/22/2005 8:55:03 PM PDT by Thinkin' Gal
Wed Jun 22,12:03 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US political, religious and legal establishments are braced for two critical Supreme Court rulings on the Ten Commandments, weighing heavily on the separation of church and state.
The decision, expected as early as Thursday, could inflame conservative evangelical groups or opposing civil liberties lobbies, and thrust the court squarely into partisan politics.
And both sides of the divide will use whatever judgment day brings in the two cases to whip up partisans ahead of a looming battle over what could be imminent vacancies on the court bench.
Each case is born out of the religious and cultural struggle raging in modern America between radical evangelicals and advocates of the secular state.
The conservative religious right, a strong backer of
President George W. Bush, argues that the country is a "Christian" state and decry attempts to deny that heritage.
Civil liberties advocates however fear a tide of evangelical Christianity is eroding the politically sacred separation of church and state, and endangering the principle that all Americans, whatever their religion, are created equal.
The more contentious question before the court, legal experts say, is a challenge to the display of framed copies in two Kentucky courthouses of the Ten Commandments, which Christians and Jews believe God handed to Moses on Mount Sinai.
"This case will answer whether or not the government may hew to a particular religious viewpoint and chose Christianity because there have been Christians in our heritage," said Marci Hamilton of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.
"Or whether the Supreme Court is going to take the heat, which it is going to get, and say there are some circumstances where the government cannot post the Ten Commandments despite their importance in our history and they must make it clear that every citizen is a citizen that is equal in the eyes of the law."
The second case surrounds the legality of a stone monument inscribed with the commandments and other religious symbols on the grounds of the Texas state legislature.
This may be easier to resolve than the Kentucky situation, as the monument was placed in a display of other historical monuments and was a private donation.
Therefore, justices could stake out a compromise position and argue that the display was not necessarily endorsed by the Texas state government, allowing it to fall within constitutional bounds.
The US Constitution's first amendment establishes the principle of separation of church and state, but how this should be interpreted remains unclear following numerous contradictory decisions by lower courts.
Justices may find a more delicate tightrope in the Kentucky case, as it was the government of McCreary County which put a plaque of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, and defended the display through the courts.
It would be hard to argue therefore that the state government did not endorse the display, prompting some experts to believe the Supreme Court may come up with a split judgment on the Texas and Kentucky cases.
Differences over the cases were clear when the court took up the questions in March.
Appearing to endorse the displays, conservative justice
Antonin Scalia called them "the symbol that government derives its authority from God."
"I see nothing wrong with the government reflecting that. We're a tolerant society," Scalia said.
Liberal justice Stephen Breyer however countered that, although the US is a highly religious country, "we are also committed to secularism."
If you support the public display of the Ten Commandments then according to this article you are a "radical evangelical".
Of course if you oppose the public display of the Ten Commandments then you are merely one out a multitude of "advocates of the secular state".
I've always felt "Radical"!
If they do away with - Thou shalt not kill - isn't that grounds for overturning ever murder conviction in the country? What will law be based on, what feels good now?
What a strange religion.
Don't confuse God's law with secular law.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
Will the Supremes prohibit the free exercise thereof?
News to me.
Secular law is based on God's law. The question I was asking was if you eliminate God's law, what is secular law based on? And what it is based on today because of current public opinion can change tomorrow. What if islamic law wins out in the future? Does that make it okay to murder women who won't cover up properly? It's a slippery slope.
Listen, you're positing an opinion as a fact. Societies throughout time have had prohibitions against murder without ever having the benefit of receiving the "Word". To be honest, I'd rather know that someone doesn't kill their neighbor because they realize it is WRONG... because they have no right to deprive another of life...not because they're worried about what God will do.
Moral Absolutes Ping.
Okay, time to start the ball rolling. I've been a little remiss in the pinging department, so here comes a bunch of them.
Here's a link to an article the other day with lots and lots of quotes by some of the wise men who founded our country, or were influential in its beginnings, and what have to say about moral absolutes and their source.
Misquoting Our Founding Fathers
Freepmail me if you want on/off this pinglist.
Note: It seems crystal clear to me that when judges rule that 10 Commandments displays are verboten (along with a lot of other like decisions) they are forbidding freedom of religious expression; IOW they are exhibiting strong prejudice against religion, in favor of secularism. Is that Constitutional?
When the laws given by God in all the religions of the world (which laws are essentially the same) are tossed in favor of laws invented by the minds of men, guess what happens.
I think you know.
Lots of different people have different ideas on what is wrong and what is right. Wildly different.
Here comes consensual cannibalism, "inter-generational" sex as promoted by NAMBLA, inter-species sex, infanticide, and on and on and on. Even Communism is a system of morality, of right and wrong, invented by the mind of man. And since there are always some recalcitrants who don't want to go along with what other people say is right and wrong, secular based morality always turns into tyranny, since the said recalcitrants need to be forced, for the good of all.
That's the best reason I can think of to keep the government neutral in terms of religion.
If you let it come down on the side of Christianity, it's only a matter of time before Muslims outnumber Christains somewhere and all of a sudden your tax dollars are going to make the Koran and daily prayers to Mecca a mandatory part of grade school.
The bottom line for me is that the government shouldn't take sides in matters of faith. Render unto Caesar and all that.
Those pesky alleged Ten Commandments ping.
There are actually 613 Commandments in the Bible.
No, it doesn't. Let's not put words in its mouth.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."
Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase "wall of separation between church and state" in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association years later (in 1802, see here), and that phrase has since been used (incorrectly, IMO) as a shorthand for the Establishment Clause.
The relevant passage is:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
Do you see the careful distinction? Jefferson's words are not the Constitution itself -- they are an interpretation of the intent of the Constitution.
The Founders, most of whom were Deists by belief and Christians by practice, knew that their spiritual and religious beliefs underlay their governmental concepts -- and they said so openly.
But note that while the awe-inspiring and fire-breathing document called the Declaration of Independence mentions God by name, the U.S. Constitution -- the document that defines our government -- does not do so at all (save an unavoidable reference to "the year of our Lord").
The Ten Commandments unquestionably were among the guidelines used in the formation of our government. They embody some fine rules for human behavior, and the world would surely be better off if more people followed them (I suppose non-Judeo/Christians would be welcome to skip the ones referring particularly to Jahweh). But there's a difference between acknowledging the important influence of the Ten Commandments on our government, and elevating them above the Constitution itself as a matter of policy.
The Judeo/Christian can choose to hew to the Ten Commandments as a higher law than the U.S. Constitution, and that's their option -- precisely because the First Amendment guarantees their freedom to do so for themselves. But that does not mean that the Ten Commandments are permitted to override the First Amendment protections for everybody else as well.
I hope to see the Supremes uphold the First Amendment Establishment Clause as prohibiting official government entanglement (e.g. sponsorship, preference) with any particular religion, while still allowing individual citizens complete freedom whether and how to worship (or not), as we please.
As I read it, the Establishment Clause is perfectly clear and unambiguous as it stands: I am free to exercise my religion as an individual, but I am not permitted to entangle the government (which is shared amongst us all) with my religion. How hard is that to understand?
I don't have the time to answer each one of those, although it would be interesting.
First of all, what exactly are the differences between the King James and the Catholic translation of the Bible? What translation do Catholics use? And how are the Commandments different in Jewish Torah?
Second, it is ridiculous to say that all religions should be treated equally. The truth is that all PEOPLE, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, should be treated equally. But religions? Historically, the founders of this country were for the most part Christians, with some Jews, and the moral foundation is the same for both. So it's downright silly to say that if the 10 Commandments are displayed, so do the Bahai golden rules or whatever they have.
Third, every monotheist religion in the history of the world has essentially the same moral absolutes. By disallowing these moral absolutes to be posted on public property, they are demoted to the back alley. Even "Gay" rainbow flags are allowed on city streets, paid for with tax money. But no 10 Commandments?
The 1st Amendment says there shall be no abridgment of the freedom of religion, that says it all.
And personally, I follow a slightly different set of commandments, but I gladly support the Biblical commandments, displayed often and early. Why? Note my tagline.
Short and sweet,
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