Court Calls Oklahoma Ten Commandments Display Unconstitutional

Reversing a lower court, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared unconstitutional the eight-foot-tall religious display, which was erected at the local courthouse in 2004 after a campaign by a local minister and his supporters.

This decision should send a clear message to politicians and religious leaders: Thou shalt not mix church and state, observed the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Our courthouses should focus on the Constitution and civil law, not religious law."
Why this is even a controversy is beyond me. Let's review the Ten Commandments and see just why this is clearly a violation of Church and State (keeping in mind that these 10 vital 'laws' are not even delivered consistently in the Bible or agreed upon across various denominations):
  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.

The first four Commandments have absolutely zero place in a court room and are explicitly set against many fundamental freedoms guaranteed in this nation. Numbers five and ten offer nothing that a court of law can even consider and provide nothing that a legislature could use to be codified into laws at all. Six and eight are already covered by laws in most every jurisdiction, so we're just adding redundancy here. Seven is not illegal (see first comment by Laura below)) and has no place in the state's hands except as already covered in divorce laws. Number nine is vague and in its legal sense is already covered by perjury and fraud laws.

There is absolutely no reason we need this arbitrary set of rules placed anywhere. Nearly half codify religious intolerance and impose a fear of the invisible man-in-the-sky, and the others, where needed, are already covered by existing laws. Sad that in the 21st Century so many people are so ignorant as to believe this idiotic set of 'do nots' is somehow the most important set of rules to follow. What about rape? Incest? Drunk driving? How about terrorism that doesn't kill people? Torture? Aren't there worse 'sins' than coveting your neighbor's donkey?

As stated above, there isn't even agreement on which ten are the most important. Moses went up the mountain three times, bringing back different commandments each time. The first was an oral account, followed by two different trips where he brought back engraved tablets. The latter two sets of rules are vastly different and offer incredibly strange priorities for the Jewish faith (and later Christian faith). Take a look for yourself here. (hat tip to Dan Barker's book: Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leadin... for inspiration, which I'm currently reading and will review in the next week in the Book Club Group)

(posted on my blog: davenichols.net)

Views: 3

Tags: Christianity, Oklahoma, Religion, Seperation of Church and State, Ten Commandments

Comment by Laura on June 10, 2009 at 4:34pm
Actually, I wrote a paper in law school about all the states that still have laws criminalizing adultery. I forget how many do, but it's a lot of them.

Here in Wisconsin, Wis. Stat. sec. 944.16 reads:

Adultery. Whoever does either of the following is guilty of a Class I felony:
(1) A married person who has sexual intercourse with a person not the married person's spouse; or
(2) A person who has sexual intercourse with a person who is married to another.

How about that? Adultery is a felony in Wisconsin! Of course, these laws are rarely enforced, which is why most people don't realize they exist. But every now and then, they are enforced, leading to arguments of selective enforcement, which was also a subject of my paper.

Anywho, once we get religious statues off our public property, maybe we should work on getting religious statutes like this out of our books.
Comment by Dave Nichols on June 10, 2009 at 4:39pm
Wow, did not know there were adultery laws on the books in some states. I can understand adultery being grounds for determining divorce/child custody situations or for character testimonies, but actually illegal? crazy. Thanks for the info, I've updated the post to reference your comment.
Comment by alexander hill on June 10, 2009 at 5:00pm
Oh man - that's why I love living in Wisconsin!
Comment by James on June 10, 2009 at 5:12pm
Way to go Oklahoma!! I'm sure they'll be crying about this on Fox News tonight. If they only bothered to take a look at the Constitution, they would see why this monument has no place in a court.
Comment by Laura on June 10, 2009 at 5:48pm
James - Forgive my second legal nitpick of the day, but we have nothing to congratulate Oklahoma for. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit is a federal court, located in Colorado, with jurisdiction over federal claims arising in Oklahoma. The case was brought by the ACLU. As for Oklahoma, its legislature just passed a law allowed a ten commandments monument on the state capitol grounds, so boo to Oklahoma, and way to go to the ACLU and the federal court system. :)
Comment by James on June 10, 2009 at 8:40pm
Valid point Laura. It's the Federal Courts that deserve the credit. Still good news, though. :)
Comment by Gaytor on June 10, 2009 at 9:02pm
Nice find Laura. I thought that adultery was only illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Good Overall Post Dave.
Comment by Dave Nichols on June 11, 2009 at 12:28pm
I have posted a review of Godless in the Book Club forum

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