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Are Displays of the 10 Commandments in Public Buildings...

WilliamJB

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A violation of the 1st Amendment?

I'm sure you can guess where I stand, but I'm curious to hear other viewpoints.
 

MaggieD

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Well, let's see....did Congress make a law it had to be displayed? No. Did a congressman place it there? Probably not. Does having the Ten Commandments on display prohibit the free exercise of any religion? No. Does displaying them abridge anyone's freedom of speech? Or the press? Or the right to peaceably assemble? Or to petition for redress? No.

My answer would be, "Technically, no."
 
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WilliamJB

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Fair point. But, assuming, as pretty much everyone except Antonin Scalia does, that the Bill of Rights has been incorporated to the state and local level, I would suggest that it does represent the state establishing a religion.
 

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It's not a violation of the first amendment but it is kind of disrespecting pluralism, especially given how many different diverse backgrounds there are in the U.S. I'm not Christian so I don't want my tax dollars going towards monuments of favoritism.
 

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It seems to me that it's a bit of a stretch to say that displaying the ten commandments is "establishing a religion".

Is displaying a creche scene at Christmas, or a Menorah at Hannuka establishing a religion? How about those crosses at Arlington? I'm very much on board with separation of church and state, but I really don't see where that sort of thing is a violation of the First Amendment.
 

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Fair point. But, assuming, as pretty much everyone except Antonin Scalia does, that the Bill of Rights has been incorporated to the state and local level, I would suggest that it does represent the state establishing a religion.
I would say that depends on the makeup of the community. Let's say the local religion is already established by the residents non-officially of course, just sheer numbers. If say, 95% of a community is representing a particular religion and to reflect that one of it's tenets is displayed not to say "we believe this" but to simply reflect what is already there I don't see a problem, now, if 5% of the people lobbied for their religious symbol just to establish presence it's iffy. Here's where I think the line truly is though, if a judge sentences someone to study the communities given majority religion or if a city charter explicitly passed a proclamation of "we are a ________ community" then it's blatantly unconstitutional.
 

WilliamJB

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It seems to me that it's a bit of a stretch to say that displaying the ten commandments is "establishing a religion".

Is displaying a creche scene at Christmas, or a Menorah at Hannuka establishing a religion? How about those crosses at Arlington? I'm very much on board with separation of church and state, but I really don't see where that sort of thing is a violation of the First Amendment.

I would say that the 10 commandments are the most obvious (real world) example of establishing a religion. After all, the first 4 refer to a very specific religious tradition. I'll even side with the Supreme Court on this one and say that Christmas and Hannuka have sufficiently secular aspects to them that public display is probably OK. But again, the commandments are SO specific to one tradition that you have to seriously ask if it's really any different than establishing a religion.
 

WilliamJB

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I would say that depends on the makeup of the community. Let's say the local religion is already established by the residents non-officially of course, just sheer numbers. If say, 95% of a community is representing a particular religion and to reflect that one of it's tenets is displayed not to say "we believe this" but to simply reflect what is already there I don't see a problem, now, if 5% of the people lobbied for their religious symbol just to establish presence it's iffy. Here's where I think the line truly is though, if a judge sentences someone to study the communities given majority religion or if a city charter explicitly passed a proclamation of "we are a ________ community" then it's blatantly unconstitutional.

I have two responses to that:

1. Sure, if someone within the hypothetical 95% religion "x" community wants to display symbols of that religion on private property, without governmental assistance, then I say knock yourself out. The problem starts when gov't funds, resources, property, etc. become involved. And since no one (IMO) is qualified to say, OK, 94%, or 95%, or 96% of the community has to be of faith "x," it's just safer to keep it in the private sphere.

2. I would argue that a reading of the 1st that only disallows an affirmative statement of "we are _______" is simply too narrow. It suggests that it would be OK to erect a crucifix in the House of Representatives, or a Star of David in the Senate, start every legislative session with a prayer to Allah, etc., but as long as the law doesn't literally "establish a religion," then it's OK. I know those are extreme examples, but again, a line has to be drawn somewhere, and I think it ought to be drawn as far from what the Founders wanted to avoid (a state religion) as possible.
 

LaMidRighter

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I have two responses to that:

1. Sure, if someone within the hypothetical 95% religion "x" community wants to display symbols of that religion on private property, without governmental assistance, then I say knock yourself out. The problem starts when gov't funds, resources, property, etc. become involved. And since no one (IMO) is qualified to say, OK, 94%, or 95%, or 96% of the community has to be of faith "x," it's just safer to keep it in the private sphere.

2. I would argue that a reading of the 1st that only disallows an affirmative statement of "we are _______" is simply too narrow. It suggests that it would be OK to erect a crucifix in the House of Representatives, or a Star of David in the Senate, start every legislative session with a prayer to Allah, etc., but as long as the law doesn't literally "establish a religion," then it's OK. I know those are extreme examples, but again, a line has to be drawn somewhere, and I think it ought to be drawn as far from what the Founders wanted to avoid (a state religion) as possible.
As to point 1, I somewhat agree. Where I agree is the public funds shouldn't be allowed to be used however if there is a private fund used of some kind it should not be disallowed by law and the donor should be made quite clear so there is no perception of impropriety.
to point 2, we'll probably never agree on the line. I think communities should have the option to decide, but not the power to do so through simple legislation alone, maybe let the public vote on it after a bill is passed and both would be required.....something like that.
 

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I would say that the 10 commandments are the most obvious (real world) example of establishing a religion. After all, the first 4 refer to a very specific religious tradition. I'll even side with the Supreme Court on this one and say that Christmas and Hannuka have sufficiently secular aspects to them that public display is probably OK. But again, the commandments are SO specific to one tradition that you have to seriously ask if it's really any different than establishing a religion.

If there was a movement to institutionlize the ten commandments into law, then that could be argued to be establishing a religion. Simply displaying them isn't, IMO, doing more than displaying a religious symbol, no different from putting up a cross at Arlington.

I've heard it argued that our laws are, in fact, based on the Ten Commandments, making me wonder whether the purveyor of such opinion hasn't actually read the ten, or whether they don't understand the law.
 

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If there was a movement to institutionlize the ten commandments into law, then that could be argued to be establishing a religion. Simply displaying them isn't, IMO, doing more than displaying a religious symbol, no different from putting up a cross at Arlington.

I've heard it argued that our laws are, in fact, based on the Ten Commandments, making me wonder whether the purveyor of such opinion hasn't actually read the ten, or whether they don't understand the law.

Theres a mural in the SCOTUS building which shows, among other things, the 10 Commandments and the Code of Hammurabi. I've heard it explained that they are there as respected historical examples of how Law became something written down and defined, as opposed to "whatever the whim of the ruler is at the moment."

I think the 10 Commandments were certainly an influence on all Western law. Granted that the first two commandments are specific to Judaism and Christianity, the remainder constitute an basic list of "how humans beings ought to treat each other". I think that influence on Western culture and law ought not be ignored.
 

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A violation of the 1st Amendment?

I'm sure you can guess where I stand, but I'm curious to hear other viewpoints.

I honestly don't see why we waste so much time on these kind of issues when there are bigger fish to fry.

When everything else important gets handled, then we should go with the trivial things like this.
 

Dittohead not!

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Here are the 10 commandments:

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)
1 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
3 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
4 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
5 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
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.”
#6, 8, and 9 are the only ones that made it into modern law in the Christian nations.

Several of them are codified in Sharia law, ironically.
 

LaMidRighter

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Here are the 10 commandments:

#6, 8, and 9 are the only ones that made it into modern law in the Christian nations.

Several of them are codified in Sharia law, ironically.
Actually, 4 is still in effect in many southern US regions in the form of "blue laws" basically they are a different set of business rules on Sundays that restrict which businesses may operate after certain hours and what they can sell. 7 still exists in civil law as infidelity is an immediate justification for divorce and will usually cause a bigger settlement in post divorce property proceedings(not criminal.....but still).
 

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I think people generally are use to Christian symbols because they're common, thus, the notion of it bothering someone even if they don't believe in it isn't the norm. Yet other things are widespread symbols - like a cross - it's found in many different religions and cultures and can represent many different things, not just *one* religion.

The religious-symbolism behind the 10 Commandments isn't just the commandments themselves - the text - but the overall symbol of the slates *being* the commandments.

*but* if they allow the 10 Commandments then they need to allow everything else, as well. . . which has been done in cases of religious holidays - like the Menorah being displayed alongside a Christmas Tree.

Having something on display- especially fi you don't adhere to it - doesn't stake it as a national religion. In order for something to be a national relgion you have to incorporate the beliefs and teachings into your basic law and live by it to some degree.

However, if people would be unwilling to have a Holy Scroll, Buddha statue or a Rosary on display - yet are fine with the Commandments - then there is a bit of hypocrisy, there.
 

RyrineaHaruno

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I would also say it a baseless claim to say that it would be setting a national religion, and I am an Atheist. However do I want our tax dollars to put it up no I don't want that.
 

LaMidRighter

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I think people generally are use to Christian symbols because they're common, thus, the notion of it bothering someone even if they don't believe in it isn't the norm. Yet other things are widespread symbols - like a cross - it's found in many different religions and cultures and can represent many different things, not just *one* religion.

The religious-symbolism behind the 10 Commandments isn't just the commandments themselves - the text - but the overall symbol of the slates *being* the commandments.

*but* if they allow the 10 Commandments then they need to allow everything else, as well. . . which has been done in cases of religious holidays - like the Menorah being displayed alongside a Christmas Tree.

Having something on display- especially fi you don't adhere to it - doesn't stake it as a national religion. In order for something to be a national relgion you have to incorporate the beliefs and teachings into your basic law and live by it to some degree.

However, if people would be unwilling to have a Holy Scroll, Buddha statue or a Rosary on display - yet are fine with the Commandments - then there is a bit of hypocrisy, there.

I would also say it a baseless claim to say that it would be setting a national religion, and I am an Atheist. However do I want our tax dollars to put it up no I don't want that.
I agree with both of you here. As for the mutual inclusion argument I hold a little bit of Ryinea's and AS's standards to it. If muslims want a tasteful display of some basic tenets(for god's sake not Sharia law though) displayed and are willing to provide it independently of tax funds, no prob.
 

Scarecrow Akhbar

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A violation of the 1st Amendment?

I'm sure you can guess where I stand, but I'm curious to hear other viewpoints.

No display of art can be a violation of the First Amendment.

Attempting to enact the Ten Suggestions into law certainly would be, starting with the First Suggestion itself.
 

Dittohead not!

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Actually, 4 is still in effect in many southern US regions in the form of "blue laws" basically they are a different set of business rules on Sundays that restrict which businesses may operate after certain hours and what they can sell. 7 still exists in civil law as infidelity is an immediate justification for divorce and will usually cause a bigger settlement in post divorce property proceedings(not criminal.....but still).

Are those old blue laws still in effect? I thought they had been found unconstitutional.
 

LaMidRighter

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Are those old blue laws still in effect? I thought they had been found unconstitutional.
Couldn't tell you about the constitutional findings really, but here in my town they were in effect well into the eighties, maybe nineties but can't remember the phase out time. I could swear there are still a few holdouts. Will have to check on it.
 

LaMidRighter

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Fair point. But, assuming, as pretty much everyone except Antonin Scalia does, that the Bill of Rights has been incorporated to the state and local level, I would suggest that it does represent the state establishing a religion.

But even it this were true, it's at the state level not the federal level. Congress has not made any law that I'm aware of that establishes a "national" religion. Therefore, I don't see how displaying the 10 Commandments can be viewed as violating the 1st Amendment. The states, however, may have their own laws against such.
 

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I think people generally are use to Christian symbols because they're common, thus, the notion of it bothering someone even if they don't believe in it isn't the norm. Yet other things are widespread symbols - like a cross - it's found in many different religions and cultures and can represent many different things, not just *one* religion.

The religious-symbolism behind the 10 Commandments isn't just the commandments themselves - the text - but the overall symbol of the slates *being* the commandments.

*but* if they allow the 10 Commandments then they need to allow everything else, as well. . . which has been done in cases of religious holidays - like the Menorah being displayed alongside a Christmas Tree.

Having something on display- especially fi you don't adhere to it - doesn't stake it as a national religion. In order for something to be a national relgion you have to incorporate the beliefs and teachings into your basic law and live by it to some degree.

However, if people would be unwilling to have a Holy Scroll, Buddha statue or a Rosary on display - yet are fine with the Commandments - then there is a bit of hypocrisy, there.


Let me put it this way:

If my community is 80% Christian and we're okay with having the 10 C on display at the Courthouse, then everyone outside our community should bugger off and mind their own business.

If your community is 70% Buddhist and wants to have a Wheel of the Eightfold Path on display at your courthouse, that's up to you and your community and it isn't my problem.

If Korimyr's community is 60% Pagan and wants imagery of Odin, Tyr and Thor on their courthouse, that's their business.

If you live in one of these communities and it bothers you, try to convince your neighbors to change it or move somewhere that suits you better.

If we demand that every community that allows the public display of one religion's symbol must allow ALL religious symbols, then we're going to have a mighty crowded public venue, with:
Crosses: plain, crucifix, Eastern, and others, pentagrams, eight-spoked wheels, menorahs, moon-and-star, thor's hammer, swastika, buddha, bodisattva (all ten thousand??), yin-yang, native Indian totems, African animism totems, Shinto shrines, Confucian symbols, Zarathrustran symbols, Astoroth symbols, heck I haven't even gotten started good yet and are you getting the picture?

Let local communities decide what religious symbols are suitable for their community. Display of symbols does not constitute an establishment of religion!
 

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Theres a mural in the SCOTUS building which shows, among other things, the 10 Commandments and the Code of Hammurabi. I've heard it explained that they are there as respected historical examples of how Law became something written down and defined, as opposed to "whatever the whim of the ruler is at the moment."

Indeed, in a historical context, paired with other such things, it is generally appropriate.

Posted on a wall all by itself, it is no more appropriate than posting the Code of the Flying Spaghetti Monster would be.

I think the 10 Commandments were certainly an influence on all Western law. Granted that the first two commandments are specific to Judaism and Christianity, the remainder constitute an basic list of "how humans beings ought to treat each other". I think that influence on Western culture and law ought not be ignored.

The first four are the real problem, not just the first two.

As for the other six, they are basic variations on the "golden rule" that just about every culture has had, Christian or not.
 

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A violation of the 1st Amendment?

I'm sure you can guess where I stand, but I'm curious to hear other viewpoints.

A display of the 10 comandments does not establish a national religion, aka Church of England.

A display of the 10 comandments does not give any church munisipal authority.

Therefore, a display of the 10 comandments does not violate the 1st.

Banning public displays, however, does violate the 1st.
 
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