Monday, June 27, 2005

What Shalt and Shalt Thou Not Do?

Joshua 1:8 (New Living Translation)

8 “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.”

The Supreme Court made two more important rulings today. The issue at hand in both cases was the Ten Commandments.

In the first, by a five to four vote, the justices ruled that McCreary County, Kentucky could not display the Ten Commandments because the display would, in their considered opinion, violate the establishment clause to the U.S. Constitution. The reasoning of the majority seemed to me to be extremely twisted to say the least. Read what they had to say and determine for yourself:

“However, the Biblical laws could be displayed in an historical context, as they are in a frieze in the Supreme Court building. Notably, the first four commandments, which have to do with honoring God and the Sabbath, were obscured by the artist who designed the frieze.”

“The touchstone for our analysis is the principle that the ‘First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,’” Justice David H. Souter wrote in the majority opinion, citing previous court rulings.”

Curious, eh? I think what it means is that as long as they don’t attribute authorship to God and the first four are obscured from direct public view it would be alright. I spent the better part of this day searching the web for information of copyrights and attribution for images I’m going to be using on this blog. I believe it’s really important to credit others for the work they’ve done. The creative process is difficult enough without having someone who had little or nothing to do with the inspiration and perspiration necessary to the output of the creator steal the work or hide it from public view. I think that’s the essence of what the court has done today.

I think it also means that the Court’s interpretation of the establishment clause is to be interpreted that religion, in any form, is okay, as long as it doesn’t mean anything. The second ruling, which seems to be favorable to religion, says as much:

“Rehnquist also said that the statue's placement on the grounds among secular monuments was “passive,” rather than confrontational. Rehnquist was joined in his opinion by Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas.”

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

The justices may say they believe that religion has a vital role in American life, but the message they are sending is clear. It’s the same one that Pharaoh offered to Moses and the Children of Israel:

Exodus 8:28 (New Living Translation)

28 “All right, go ahead,” Pharaoh replied. “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the wilderness. But don't go too far away. Now hurry, and pray for me.”

Translated into Kansas “plains - speak” it means this – “Don’t get too carried away with this religion thing!” “Don’t go too far with it!” “Don’t let it impact the standards by which a society should live!”

The tragedy of these cases, and the Court’s adversarial relationship with religion, is that their grand strategy has succeeded. In the 2003 piece I cited in my introduction, syndicated by the Seattle Post Intelligence, David Horsey expressed visually what I’m seeing as I survey the American landscape today. We Americans are quickly becoming Biblically illiterate.

I guess that my question, like the question Antonin Scalia asked today in his dissent to the McCreary County decision is moot:

“Listing the various ways in which higher beings are invoked in public life — from “so help me God” in inaugural oaths to the prayer that opens the Supreme Court's sessions — Scalia asked, “With all of this reality (and much more) staring it in the face, how can the court possibly assert that ‘the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality’ [on religion]?”

What the court in essence did today was to further degrade the viability of religion in America. Professing to protect everyone’s freedom, they continued a long torturous national march to nihilism and strip us of the most valuable possession we have – our faith!

What can I possibly say in response? Thanks for nothing!


Gone Away said...

So far as I can see, this whole separation of church from state thing is caused by a misunderstanding. It was originally a reaction against what had been going on in England before the establishment of the American Republic. For a long time there had been persecution of either Protestants or Catholics depending upon the preference of whichever monarch happened to be on the throne at the time. Even when they got they rid of the king for a while after the Civil War, the Puritans, in power at last, were very nasty to anyone who didn't agree with them.

So the idea of separating church and state was that there should be no state religion, in the hope that no particular religion or denomination would have the power to persecute another. This has worked fine down the years until modern times. Now the thing is being defined as "there should be no outward sign of religion in any institution of government". This is twisting the intention behind the original idea. There were plenty of overt statements of faith by the founding fathers and their descendants and religious symbols abounded in government institutions. Note that we talk of separation of church and state, not religion and state. The way it is being interpreted today means that atheism becomes the state religion, although there is room for acceptance of Islam as the state religion since it deals in mosques not churches.

If I, a mere foreigner, can see this, surely it is about time the American people woke up and put an end to the idiocies perpetrated in their name?

Douglas said...

When they came for the children's prayers in 1962, I didn't speak out, because I was only 5 years old, and didn't pray in school anyway.

When they came for the unborn in 1973, I didn't speak out, because I had already been born.

When the Massachusetts judges came for marriage in 2004, I didn't speak out, because I wasn't in Massachusetts.

When they came for my house in 2005, I didn't speak out, because my house was on the edge of a swamp, and they weren't too likely to give it to a developer to make a shopping mall on it.

When they came for me, there wasn't anyone left.

Ed Darrell said...

They didn't come for the children's prayers in 1962. They came for the prayers imposed on the children by overzealous adults. God would prefer to talk to the children directly, and Christians recognized that the Court's ruling was consistent with Jesus' teachings, and did not complain. The law today, as Bill Clinton reminded, is that kids can pray almost any time and any place they like, especially in school. A change in the law is necessary only to make it legal to coerce children to pray. We don't want that.

The 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling is troubling, but the opposite is troubling, too. What should be the role in granting the government control over a woman's right to reproduce? As Madison noted in 1785, if government has the right to tell a woman she must not abort, it has the power to tell a woman she must abort, too. Perhaps the Court was wiser than we give them credit.

Massachusetts' Supreme Court ruled that the words in the state constitution have real meaning. We cannot say "human rights for all," but then withhold human rights from those we don't like for one reason or another. They didn't "come for marriage," they came to take away invidious discrimination. If you didn't speak up for invidious discrimination, good for you. By the way, can you tell us how allowing MORE marriage is a threat to YOUR marriage? Legal monogamy is preferable to almost all other states of matrimony, or a lack of it -- isn't it?

Nor did they come for your house in 2005. The New London case involves a community trying to determine its future, and making a future that has jobs and hope for people. Private property rights should not stand in the way of doing the right thing for the unemployed and young, should they?