The Ten Commandments Are Not the Basis of American Law

Yesterday a man drove into a four ton granite monument on the Little Rock, Arkansas capitol grounds with the Ten Commandments inscribed on it.  He reduced his Dodge Dart and the monument to scraps.  The man, Michael Tate Reed, is a serial ten commandments monument crasher, and has been arrested and charged with several counts of criminal malicious mischief, destruction of property and trespass.

The monument had been up less than a day when it was demolished, and a replacement has already been ordered.

There have been appeals to prevent the monument on state property grounds on the basis of separation of church and state.  The Arkansas legislature apparently overruled the constitution, and put it up anyway.

A satanic organization has asked to have a statue of Satan with goat head and angel wings erected with two small children looking up adoringly at the sculpture.

Mr. Reed states that he is a Christian, but also believes in the U.S. Constitution and finds the monuments to be a violation of the constitution.

The ACLU was preparing a lawsuit against the monument when it was destroyed.

A Republican lawmaker, and supporter of the placement of the monument, said that the state had “beautiful grounds”, but no statue celebrating the 10 commandments as the basis of United States law. 

Now, I am not an attorney, but I’m pretty sure that the Ten Commandments are not the basis of U.S. law.  English Common Law is the basis of our legal system and it has roots that preceded Christianity in England. To be fair, there are several definitions of Common Law.  In one it is the law brought by Saxons to England.  That is not generally accepted as true.  In most definitions Common Law was the law as applied by precedent in cases that did not involve the King’s interests; that is disputes were between commoners.  Traveling magistrates held court in lieu of the king and decided a case based on cases decided in the Monarch’s interest.  This practice caused common to also take on the meaning of “common throughout the realm”.

Kings made decisions before the advent of Christianity and those decisions took on the weight of precedent.  In other areas of the world laws were created by edict and decisions were made on that basis.  Those edicts may or may not have taken into account the Ten Commandments.

So, the Arkansas congressman’s argument for placing the Ten Commandments on the capitol grounds in Arkansas is fallacious.

As an aside, one wise Jewish father said that, “all of the commandments are about theft.”  Think about them one by one and ask who the victim is and what is being stolen.

There are many legal traditions in the world, some bolstered by religious law.  Many countries were touched by the British Empire and in most of those countries – like India – a legal system based on precedent took the place of what existed before.  Japan, never a colony of Great Britain, continues to have a legal system based on family patriarchy and the feudal system that followed.

Did Christian principles affect the decisions made by British kings?  To be sure they did in later centuries.  It would have been wonderful had these decisions been based on the teachings of Christ, but the teachings of Christ did not usually work in the favor of kings.  More commonly they may have referenced the Ten Commandments which are a series of “Thou Shalt Nots” rather than a series of “Thou Shalts”.

But, English Common Law was not founded on the Ten Commandments, and kings generally decided things as they wanted.  Telling Henry VIII that he could not get a divorce, ended in cutting off ties with pope thereby placing the King as the head of the Church of England.  Don’t tell Henry that he could not lust after another man’s wife or commit adultery.

The emphasis on the Ten Commandments is placed by a certain segment of legalistic Christianity that wants to erase the separation of church and state.

 

Views: 148

Comment by koshersalaami on June 28, 2017 at 10:42pm

Pretty much, and Christians and Jews don't agree completely on what they are.

Comment by alsoknownas on June 29, 2017 at 6:49am

Bizarre.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on June 29, 2017 at 6:50am

Even if there ever was a guy named Moses (which there wasn't), he was a peyote user who once got his ass lost on a mountain and hallucinated seeing a talking, burning shrub.  He then carried a couple of rocks back home to the people who were so busy venerating a cow that they believed the shit he made up to cover up his getting lost.

Comment by Boanerges on June 29, 2017 at 7:11am

Henry VIII's situation was a little more complicated than merely coveting someone else's wife. He desperately wanted a male heir, and was caught in a power struggle, specifically with Catherine of Aragon's nephew, the powerful Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who essentially told Pope Clement VII to disallow the annulment. Ironically, an earlier pope had named Henry "Defender of the Faith", but the desire for a male heir over-rode all his other considerations. Also ironically, his marriage to Anne Boleyn produced arguably England's greatest monarch, Elizabeth I. (His only male issue, Edward VI, died as a teenager.)

All that blathering aside, you are quite right about your Constitution, but you'll never get that rabid fundy fan base to agree.

Comment by JMac1949 Today on June 29, 2017 at 7:14am

I read about this guy and had to grin.  Consider this:

Comment by Ron Powell on June 29, 2017 at 8:03am

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 29, 2017 at 10:52am

Some can't imagine that there was any philosophy of moral behavior between humans before the 10 commandments.  The Icelandic sagas describe a very different system of morals and justice.  The Allthing was both a social and legal gathering in which crimes were tried and recompense set.  Murders were settled in silver.  Very different.

Comment by MV Neland on June 30, 2017 at 1:30am

Rodney, very elucidating!  The resistance to allowing a certain sect of a broader religion - the legalistic Christians you refer to - to dominate and establish state religion and slavery in the Southern colonies was far stronger back then than it is now. And, they kept trying to spread their odd religious interpretation of slavery based on race as justification to the North and West, along with their particular religious bent. Hundreds of thousands were enslaved by it. Millions fought and died because of it. They still believe in their rightness no matter how many times they are proven wrong. And, here we are all over again. 

Comment by Rosigami on July 1, 2017 at 11:48am

I just don't get why we are STILL fighting this battle of separation of Church and State, since the decisions were made centuries ago for it to be thus. The FFs had it right in the first place.
The fundy Christian right scares the hell out of me, for so many reasons. I don't want to live in their world.

Comment by Rodney Roe on July 1, 2017 at 9:40pm

The fundy Christians are scary because they are sure they are right, G_d is on their side, and they want to return to "the good old days" of Jim Crow (white privilege).  They erroneously believe that working class jobs will come back to the U.S. if they can return to the America of the middle of the last century. 

The doctrines of the evangelical churches varies somewhat from church to church, but one thing that unites them is that their clergy is intent on the development of a decentralized government with closely associated church and state.  They have been more or less quietly working on this since the Billy Graham/Dwight Eisenhower days and they are not giving up.

Race doesn't have as much to do with the doctrine as you might think, but they attract bigots and don't discourage their ideas.

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