Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Take 'em down

I'm with the NYT: the Ten Commandments should be taken down from the courthouse displays in Texas and Kentucky.

It looks like it will all come down to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; the other four justices on each side are already pretty solid one way or the other. I think she will vote to have them taken down; from what I hear of the Texas monument in particular, it seems like a pretty cut-and-dry case.

1) There's no evidence that the Commandments are the foundation of the American legal system. There's no reference to God in the U.S. Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence clearly asserts that humans make laws, not God. 2) These displays are quite different from the historical display to be found in the U.S. Supreme Court: these displays are ostentatious and they stand alone. And 3) There is no question that these 10 Commandments are essentially Jewish/Christian.

There is some confusion on point 3, as there are actually three different sets of "Ten Commandments," one Jewish/Hebrew, one Protestant, and one Catholic. See the PDF here. Moreover, there are many more than just 10 commandments in the Old Testament, as Christopher Hitchens pointed out some time ago, and as any quick glance at Exodus 20-21 will confirm. Hitchens' snarky commentary on the stupidity of situating these as foundational to the American legal system remains definitive.

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