Earlier today, I posted a few thoughts on the probable legal status of Oklahoma’s new monument to the Ten Commandments over on the AOK blog. The short version is that I don’t think this case (once we find a plaintiff) will make it past the 10th Circuit Court, which must rely upon the idiosyncratic standards laid down by Justice Breyer in his crucial concurring opinion on the Van Orden case. Go ahead and read it, it you’re into all that legal mumbo jumbo. Be warned, though, I’m not a legal scholar, and I’ve never even played one on television.
This post isn’t about constitutional jurisprudence and legal precedents; it is an appeal to unvarnished everyday common sense. It is my answer to conservative friends and relatives who ask me why we shouldn’t have a giant stone monument to the Judeo-Christian religion in the shadow of the State Capitol or the County courthouse.
First off, if you empower the government to endorse your own religion (even in the broadest possible way) you also empower the government to endorse someone else’s religion instead. If it’s okay to endorse “Judeo-Christian” commandments, why not exclusively Christian proscriptions as well? How about Mormon doctrines or Roman Catholic encyclicals? Is there any sensible way to draw the line, once you’ve ceded to the government the power to endorse some religious ideas over others?
Secondly, what kind of message does it send that you’ve chosen these particular commandments? These rules were devised by an ancient people who were so morally backward that they actually meted out the death penalty for adultery, blasphemy, and cursing one’s parents (among various other trival offenses) while at the same time smiling benevolently upon the genocidal invasion of the ‘Promised Land,’ accompanied by the forcible acquisition and defloration of war brides. Given these barbaric practices, how can anyone possibly consider ancient Israel a paragon of moral virtue?
Finally, consider the possibility that forcing taxpayers to support your religion (even if that means nothing more than purchasing and maintaining the real property upon which a religious monument resides) is a significant violation of the Golden Rule. If, as a Christian, you would find it burdensome to discover that your tax dollars were going to support someone else’s religious faith, then you should seriously consider that what you are doing to non-Christians is precisely that which you not would have done unto you.
Conservative Christians of Oklahoma, this is what you’ve done: handed over power to a government large enough to tell you whom to worship, for the sake of promulgating an ancient and barbaric moral code, in violation of Jesus’ central ethical commandment. You should be ashamed of yourselves and infuriated at the people you’ve elected as representatives.