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.