Friday, March 04, 2005


It's interesting to hear the Supremes whinging about how difficult it is to strike a balance with the Ten Commandments issue. In fact, like Scalia, who unsurprisingly has no problem with the commandments being on display, Justice Kennedy sees no need to disrupt the status quo:
"If an atheist walks by, he can avert his eyes," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in a courtroom filled with spectators. Banning the Texas display might "show hostility to religion," he said.
How is it that the arguments of a Supreme Court judge are so easy to dismantle? "If an atheist walks by," Justice Kennedy? What if a Muslim, Hindu, Confucianist, a Quaker, an Amish person, an agnostic, a New-Ager (any left?), a plain old non-believer, or even a liberal Christian walks by? The Ten Commandments needn't apply to *any* of them. Or, in the case of the Amish, they may be offended by the display of the commandments as a "graven image," which those very commandments forbids. Additionally, it needn't be a matter of offense. It's simply a matter of representation. The Decalogue does not *represent* all Americans. The Constitution does. Place monuments to it outside every courthouse--fine. Kennedy's argument is a radical oversimplification.

Also, he suggests that banning the Decalogue might "show hostility to religion." No, sir, it would show respect towards ALL religions. I mean, seriously, are all of the arguments for keeping the commandments on display this easy to dismiss? And what is a Supreme Court justice doing reaching for them?

I don't think this is a hard decision to make, and any decision need not even ban all display of the Ten Commandments. Maybe I should make the decision for them: No, you cannot display a list of commandments, which apply to the followers of a single religion in a public building, unless the commandments are placed in their context along with other systems of law.

Some examples? Huge Decalogue Monument standing alone outside the court. Nope. Too clearly making a statement. A series of pictures depicting various moral codes with the depiction of the Ten Commandments front and center, larger than the rest. Nope. Too obviously making a statement. A frieze depicting various codes of law, including the Decalogue. Fine. Of course, if those are the conditions for display, then many of the most fiery advocates for displaying the commandments will no longer wish them to be displayed. Because the point they're trying to make *is* a religious one.

Justice O'Connor disappoints, too:
"It's so hard to draw that line" between allowing a legislative prayer and not allowing a Ten Commandments display, O'Connor fretted at one point.
It ain't hard, Ms. O'Connor. Of course, prayer shouldn't be allowed in the Congress. Unless it's a personal prayer said by an individual in his seat or in a private gathering. I'm not allowed to begin meetings at the bank with a prayer. Why should the government, which is supposed to represent all citizens begin its proceedings with a prayer?

Back to the commandments and another subject: You might argue that our law can be traced back to the Ten Commandments, so it's a fitting metaphor for our system of law. If so, why stop there? Why not go back to the Code of Hammurabi, which the Decalogue clearly built upon? Obviously, because the point being made is a religious one.

No comments: