Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Conservative Judge Chips at Religious Freedom


cross-posted to [info]liberal_bias
[LINK to article]

Judge Richard Suhrheinrich's ruling said the ACLU brought "tiresome" arguments about the "wall of separation" between church and state, and it said the organization does not represent a "reasonable person." The judge went on to say, “the separation of church and state,” which the ACLU referred to repeatedly, an “extra-constitutional construct [that] has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state. ... Our nation’s history is replete with governmental acknowledgment and[,] in some cases, accommodation of religion.... Thus, state recognition of religion that falls short of endorsement is constitutionally permissible.”

The "extra-Constitutional construct" that the judge is referring to is commonly called the Establishment Clause, that interpretation of the First Amendment that basically says that "freedom of religion" is intrinsically tied to "freedom from religion", and gave rise to the term "separation of Church and State", which has its basis in the Federalist Papers, and Court precedent going back to the early days of this nation.

In defense of this decision by Judge Suhrheinrich to ignore the Establishment Clause, the conservative talking points of the day emphasize that the Ten Commandments are the cornerstone of modern law, and that the laws and liberties of the United States are an extension of that.

I don't buy it.

Only three of the Ten Commandments are codified in US Federal Law, and all three -- murder, theft, false witness -- are so basic that they have been codified by every culture as far back as there have been codes, and are so intrinsic to the social fabric that they legitimately fall within Rousseau's Social Contract. Three out of ten is not a good basis to say that modern law is based on the Ten Commandments.

The Magna Carta, on the other hand, is the first document in Western civilization to afford civil liberties to all noblemen formerly reserved only for monarchs, and was thus the basis for all subsequent laws that extended or expanded rights and liberties. For historical documents, the Hammurabic Code would be a far better example than the Ten Commandments of the early codification of laws that we now consider dear.

Furthermore, the display is clearly a display of historical documents intrinsic to the founding of the United States of America; the other major documents displayed are the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner". To include the Ten Commandments, one would have to first accept that the Ten Commandments is an historical document (a matter in dispute), and that it is an integral part of the United States' history, a claim with no real basis.

Third, the Ten Commandments, while intrinsic to two major religions of the World -- Judaism and Christianity -- does, when displayed in a courthouse, place a certain expectation on how the Court will view cases and defendants before it. The judge in this case is clearly looking at the display through his pious Christian eyes, rather than the eyes of a defendant, or even an attorney, who perhaps does not believe in the validity of all the Commandments, or perhaps has broken a few that are *not* codified into law. If I appear before a court in this courthouse that is endorsing the Ten Commandments on a par with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, will it work against me in this court if I have been disrespectful to my mother (Commandment #5), not kept holy the Sabbath Day (Commandment #4), or worshipped a different God (Commandments #1 and #2)?

By now, I am sure you have rolled your eyes at me so much that you're getting dizzy, but consider the reality of this. The Court has placed a religious document with only tangential relationship to our laws on equal footing with the actual historical documents upon which our laws and our liberties are based. How can that possibly not be seen as prejudicial and biased in favor of a certain religious view?

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