newsobserver.com | Nation & World: WASHINGTON — Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky barely spoke three sentences Wednesday before U.S. Supreme Court justices peppered him with questions about whether Ten Commandments displays on government property endorse a religion.
This brings back one of my favorite Supreme Court concepts known as ceremonial deism. That concept means that it is OK to have “In God We Trust” on money and to have blessings and invocations in Congress and courts, for example. The references to God in those contexts were judged to be historical in nature and not an “establishment” of any particular religion (since it’s just generic “God”, not “Jesus” or “Muhammed” or “Allah”). Of course, I disagree, because “God” endorses a religion as opposed to no religion.
…Justice Antonin Scalia was Chemerinsky’s toughest challenger, arguing that for most Americans, the Ten Commandments are a symbol that government derives its authority from God.
Hmm, that’s funny, I was reading the document upon which the country’s independence was proclaimed, The Declaration of Independence, and it says,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
So, your honor, it sounds like people derive their rights from God, but the governments derive their authority from the people. Then I scanned The Constitution looking for “God” or “Creator” and I couldn’t find it even once!
“Ninety-nine percent of people believe in the Ten Commandments,” Scalia said. “Eighty-five percent couldn’t tell you what they are,” he added to widespread laughter.
“Believe” in the Ten Commandments, as in “I do not question the existence of that document”, or “believe” as in “I follow those directives in a legal and religious sense”? If it’s the former, I’ll buy the 99% estimate; if it’s the latter, I doubt it.
I am one of the 15% who can tell you what’s in them, though. Only three commandments are actual laws in this country, another four are good suggestions, and the first three are a particular endorsement of Judeo/Christian religion:
1. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
A line found in the context of the Bible as words spoken by the Judeo/Christian god. The personal pronoun “I” is referring to Yahweh, and “strange gods” would be those other than he. Would Christians object to a courthouse plaque that reads “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”?
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Why? What is the historical or ceremonial deism behind this? How can the improper use of a name be commanded against unless one believes in the theological nature of the entity so named?
3. Remember thou keep the Sabbath Day.
Or as it is historically known, Sunday. Right out of the gate you have three lines that require specific acceptance of Judeo/Christian mythology. These are not your generic cermonially-deistic references.
…Chemerinsky, however, suggested that in the Texas case, the placement of a granite slab between the state Capitol and the state Supreme Court would make anyone who was not Christian or Jewish feel like an outsider. Moreover, it may undermine a system that promises justice for all.
“Imagine someone who is Muslim or Buddhist who walks into the Supreme Court,” he said.
…True, Abbott said, the Ten Commandments were religious. But they also had a historical component.
Chemerinsky, however, claimed that any document that begins, “I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” is inherently religious, and its historical component ancillary.
“This is the sole religious message on government property,” Chemerinsky said. “This isn’t a museum. Texas put it there to express a religious message.”
Which is, not so subtly out, We here in Texas believe in God and Jesus. Y’all are free to worship whatever funny god you want to, but ya better just remember who makes the rules and controls this state. We’ll treat you absolutely fairly, of course, despite the fact that you’re bound to an eternity of hellfire and damnation if you don’t follow our God.