Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

Battle Over “Ten Commandments” Law Heats Up in Bible Belt

 

A new Louisiana law requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools has sparked fierce controversy in many “Bible Belt” states, with liberal groups taking to the courts to challenge what they see as a violation of the First Amendment requiring the separation of church and state.

The legislation that Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry (R) signed into law last week requires a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” in all public classrooms, from kindergarten through (state-funded) universities.

Proponents of the law hailed it as a vehicle to restore the moral foundation that centuries ago helped create the legal framework of the United States, but which has been under steady assault in recent times.

“The state of Louisiana took a giant step forward recently towards decency, honor, and the virtuous republic our Founding Fathers established, and which is so needed if America is going to survive,” declared a TownHall op-ed.

The posters will be accompanied by a “context statement” describing how the Ten Commandments “were a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries,” and must be in place in classrooms by the start of 2025.

Liberal Groups Protest

Liberal groups were quick to denounce the legislation. “The law violates the separation of church and state,” the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation said in a joint statement. “The First Amendment promises that we all get to decide for ourselves what religious beliefs, if any, to hold and practice, without pressure from the government.”

The Center for Inquiry accused the law’s proponents of seeking “to impose Christianity on all students in Louisiana’s public schools.”

Gov. Landry, who previously served as the state’s attorney general, wondered during a Fox News appearance why opposition to the law is so heated. “This country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and every time we steer away from that, we have problems in our nation. “I think [the opposition] speaks volumes about how eroded this country has become.”

[As a peripheral note, invoking “Judeo-Christian” principles implies an equivalence between the two belief systems which is historically and theologically incorrect. Christianity came on the scene more than 15 centuries after the Torah was given to the Jewish people, redefining itself as the “new chosen people” with a “new testament” that borrowed some core principles of Judaism while discarding the rest.]

Louisiana State Rep. Mike Bayham, a Catholic, set the record straight in an online interview: “Let’s be clear,” he said. “The Ten Commandments are not a Christian doctrine. They’re Jewish. I mean, this comes from the Torah. And as Christianity is technically an offshoot of Judaism, this is something that Christians adhere to as well. The Ten Commandments are the foundation of Western civilization, it’s where we derive our understanding of right and wrong.”]

Given Christianity’s centuries-long history of trying to convert Jews, the Jewish community has traditionally thrown its support behind strong church-state separation, and has been reluctant to approve of religious symbols and practices in public spaces.

A Moral Bulwark

The non-Jewish world’s version of the Ten Commandments has long served as the moral framework for monotheism and civilized society. It has influenced modern-day legal and political systems the world over by shaping the fundamental principles of justice, liberty, and individual rights that underlie these systems.

District Judge Darrell White of Louisiana posted his belief that the new law definitely passes constitutional muster. “Louisiana’s new Ten Commandments Law follows in the fine tradition of the majestic ‘Judicial Oath’ (28 USC 453) that dates back to 1789 and concludes ‘so help me, G-d,’” Judge White affirmed. “Every justice of the United States Supreme Court has taken that Oath before G-d.”

Gov. Landry has said that the prospect of a lawsuit over the Ten Commandments law is one he welcomes, as he looks forward to making his case in a court of law and believes he will be vindicated.

Legal experts say the outcome of the “Ten Commandments” lawsuits brought by ACLU and other liberal groups is difficult to predict. What is certain, they say, is that one or more of these cases will ultimately make their way to the United States Supreme Court.

If past history is any guide, and given the heightened hostility to organized religion today, Louisiana’s law may well be struck down as unconstitutional even by what most observers consider a conservative-leaning court.

If the Supreme Court ultimately rules against Louisiana, Landry might echo what President Joe Biden said after the court struck down his student loan forgiveness plan,” the TownHall op-ed quipped. “The Supreme Court blocked it,” said Biden, “but that didn’t stop me.”

Bible To Be Taught In Oklahoma Classrooms

Days after Louisiana required all public schools and colleges to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) vowed that he would pass a similar bill in the Texas Senate in the next legislative session.

“SB 1515 will bring back this historical tradition of recognizing America’s heritage, and remind students all across Texas of the importance of a fundamental foundation of American and Texas law: the Ten Commandments,” Patrick posted online.

During the last legislative session, the Texas Senate passed the bill, which would have required every Texas public elementary and secondary school to display the Ten Commandments.

The bill sailed through the state’s Senate last session on partisan lines, with Democrats criticizing the bill for “insulting non-Christian Texans.” A House committee voted favorably on the legislation, but due to delay tactics, it never made it to the floor of the state House for a vote, thus preventing its passage.

By contrast, according to Fox News, Oklahoma has actually surpassed Louisiana by requiring all public schools to incorporate the Bible and Ten Commandments into their curricula for grades 5-10, “effective immediately.”

Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters issued a memo last Thursday informing superintendents across the state that their districts are required to incorporate the Bible into lessons, “primarily for historical context,” the article said.

The memo explained that the move to incorporate the Bible was not just an educational directive “but a crucial step in ensuring our students grasp the core values and historical context of our country.”

Walters told Fox News there is a general lack of understanding about the country’s historyand the influence the Bible has had since the birth of the United States, for which he faults the progressive left. In his urgency to combat the atheism and secularism that have wormed their way into public school curricula, one hears a note of something akin to desperation.

“We’ve seen the radical leftists drive G-d out of schools, drive the Bible out of schools, and we can’t allow it to continue. We have to make sure that our kids have an understanding of what made America great,” said Walters. “Not teaching our kids about the faith of our founders and the influence the Bible had in our history is just academic malpractice.”

The superintendent elaborated that in line with his directive, instructors in every classroom across the state would have a copy of the English Bible as part of their curriculum. The lessons would be given from a historical perspective, particularly in terms of the Bible’s role in American history and the influence it had on the country’s founders.

“We’re the first to require the Bible be used in all classrooms,” Walters noted about his very controversial move. “We’re very proud of that. We believe in American values. We believe the better our students understand American history and American exceptionalism, the better off our state will be and the country will be.”

For those who are not religious, Walters wanted to be clear that lessons that include the Bible are “strictly for historical context.”

“The left can be offended, that’s fine,” Walters said in response to whether he anticipates flak from liberals and church-state advocates. “They can be offended all they want, but what they can’t do is rewrite history. That is our history. That is the history of this country.”

The ‘Ten Commandments’ Judge

The current controversy over the Ten Commandments law in Louisiana bears many similarities to a series of epic court battles over Ten Commandment displays that took place from 1995 to 2003, with the ACLU filing one lawsuit after another to have the displays removed by court order.

In one of the most famous cases, Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama’s Supreme Court in 2000 defied a court order to remove a large granite monument emblazoned with the Ten Commandments from the courthouse lawn.

Moore’s refusal to comply with the ruling resulted in his suspension from his position as Chief Justice by a judicial ethics panel, sparking rallies and protests from thousands of supporters.

The cases reflected the ideological chasm between religious-minded conservatives who object to having the mention of G-d expunged from the public arena, and liberals who, in the name of church-state separation, are seeking to do just that.

Known as the “Ten Commandments Judge” for his protracted battle to have the monument remain, Moore installed the 5,280-pound, 4-foot-high granite display after winning election as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Reaction was swift. ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against Alabama’s chief justice for violating the Constitution’s ban on government endorsement of religion.

At the trial, Moore, a Southern Baptist, argued that the Ten Commandments were the moral foundation of American law, and symbolized the sovereignty of G-d over mankind. He said he installed the monument to help reverse the moral decline in American society partly brought about by what he called “misguided rulings that have greatly weakened the moral fabric of this country.”

A U.S. District Judge ruled that the monument installed by Moore went too far in promoting religion and ordered it removed.

Founding Fathers Were Believers

Strikingly, the American Jewish Congress, a non-religious body, filed a court brief requesting the Supreme Court to remove the Ten Commandments display immediately. The government, the brief said, “has to remain “neutral” on the subject of the existence of the Creator.

The most obvious problem with that argument, said critics, is that the authors of the Constitution held the exact opposite view. They believed not only in G-d but also in His authority over the nation’s government.

In the “Separation of Church and State — Historical Fact and Current Fiction,” historian Robert Cord notes that the day after Congress approved the First Amendment, it asked President George Washington to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to acknowledge with grateful hearts G-d’s many favors, especially an opportunity He afforded them to establish a Constitution for their safety and happiness.”

The Constitution’s authors understood that if we refused to recognize G-d’s ultimate sovereignty over the state, we would be forced to recognize someone else’s. It might be a king, a dictator or an army.

“Or, as we are learning today,” quipped a leading columnist, “it might be a band of federal judges—like those of the Ninth Circuit Court.” It was the Ninth Court who voted in 2003 to confirm a controversial ruling that labeled the phrase “one nation under G-d” in the Pledge of Allegiance a violation of the constitution.

Nicknamed the “Ninth Circus” for its extremist rulings, the Ninth Circuit has been accused of trying to project onto the “founding fathers” who crafted the Constitution the atheistic views of many of its 24 judges.

What made the task of reinventing the narrative so difficult for the self-proclaimed atheists on the court is that history records the founding fathers were men of faith who were not ashamed to inject that faith into the historical record.

For example, the first act of the First Continental Congress in 1774—at the start of the Revolutionary War—was a motion to pause for prayer, when the news arrived that British troops had landed with gunfire in Boston.

Later in the war, with American troops suffering terribly at Valley Forge, almost crumbling under one defeat after another, Congress asked all the states to celebrate a national day of fasting and prayer on December 11, 1776, to beg G-d’s forgiveness and to ask for His assistance in achieving victory.

Historical records reveal that Commander-in-chief George Washington ordered his soldiers to begin each day with public prayer, in ranks, in the presence of their officers. In contemporary times, however, public prayer is another major flashpoint over which church-state advocates clash with opponents. The practice has been halted in a number of states.

When The Supreme Court Turned Left

In 1980, a liberal and activist Supreme Court moved to embrace secularism with rulings that sharply departed from American judicial history. Marking this shift was a Supreme Court decision in Stone v. Graham, where the court ruled the Ten Commandments should not be seen in public schools.

“If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments. However desirable this might be, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause,” the Supreme Court said.

This was long before school shootings began to dominate headlines, when society’s downward spiral marked by soaring crime, street violence and gender confusion was still on the distant horizon. Could the Supreme Court justices have glimpsed the future, would they have ruled differently?

As it happened, successive years saw a hardening of the high court’s position on the constitutional status of religious symbols and practices in public life. Public controversy over these issues spread to the grassroots and broadened to include the larger issue of whether or not the U.S. Constitution requires government to expunge all public mention of G-d, thus giving the views of atheists and secularists official sanction.

A movement to remove all reference to G-d in the public square began to gain traction. Liberals and atheists called for the removal of “in G-d we trust” from U.S. coins, and “one nation under G-d” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

After a string of court defeats, with judges largely refusing to reverse hallowed tradition surrounding the mention of G-d on U.S. currency and in the Pledge, these extremist movements gradually petered out.

*****

Once-great Cities Flooded with Murder, Theft, Crime

Addressing the outrage of liberals over the Ten Commandments law, a cogent op-ed in TownHall decries the devastation that resulted from allowing the secular left to dominate the political landscape for so many decades.

“We’ve tried it the Left’s way.  For 60 years, we let them practice their experiment in subjective morality, “freedom,” “live and let live” nihilism, writes TownHall columnist Jerry Newcombe.

“We gave them control of education and morality, and the results are now clearly manifest.   Look at the big American cities now, those governed by Democrats.  Those once-great cities are flooded with murder, theft, and crime, and have thousands of people sleeping and defecating on their streets.  This appears to be what the Left wants—to create social chaos so that more government will be needed.”

“At least two generations of American young people have now been taught that moral categories are nothing more than personal (or societal) preferences,” observed political commentator Dennis Prager. He cited an opinion piece written by “an incredulous professor of philosophy” in the New York Times titled, “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts.”

“Without fail, every value claim is labeled an opinion,” the philosophy professor noted. “This extends to assessing the most glaring of evils. Since the Nazis thought killing Jews was right, there is no way to know for sure whether it was wrong; it’s the Nazis’ opinion against that of the Jews and anyone else who objects.”

Prager argues that there are no moral truths because there is no longer a religious basis for morality. “More than the Enlightenment, it was the Bible — especially the Hebrew Bible—that guided the Founders’ and other Americans’ values. Not anymore,” he attests.

“Instead of being guided by a code higher than themselves and higher than government, Americans are taught to rely on their feelings to determine how to behave. Instead of being given moral guidance, young people are asked, ‘How do you feel about it?’”

The acceleration of moral decay in the country is on display in the universities that have become cesspools of Marxist thought incubating and disseminating contempt for traditional moral values as well as for parents who embody them. Propaganda peddling professors preach hatred for America and for Israel amid frenzied accusations of “racism” and “colonialism.”

Perhaps driving the insanity on the left more than anything else is fury at its failure to extinguish belief in a Creator of the universe to whom all human beings are accountable. End Sidebar One

 

 

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