Not One of the Ten Commandments Is in the Constitution

If you catch the rhetoric surrounding the US Constitution, you'd think the Ten Commandments are its bullet points. They're not.
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There are no democratically elected leaders in the Christian bible. I know, it's shocking. But if you catch the rhetoric surrounding the US Constitution, you'd think the Ten Commandments are its bullet points. They're not. The whole idea of a representative democracy (a Greek word) comes from Ancient (think then-solvent) Greece. The leaders in the bible were all kings and/or tyrants and the Bill of Rights is nowhere in the New or Old Testament.

Put simply, democracy isn't biblical. And neither are the combustible engine, CAT scans, or GPS, but that doesn't make them any less awesome.

So when fly-by-night pontificators, the loudest being the scholarly Sarah Palin, claim this country's laws are ordained by God via the bible, she needs to show her work, because freedom of the press, due process, and freedom of speech are not through-lines in biblical teachings. Nor is the citizenry bearing arms.

"Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant," Palin sputtered on FNC earlier this month. "They're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments."

Evidently, just because it's "protected speech" doesn't make it "factual."

When you break it down, three of the Ten Commandments are universal laws with zero controversy: do not murder, do not steal, no false witnessing. The teetering point to make half of the most widely accepted version of the Ten Commandments actual laws has been fought over by the states. Blue Laws -- laws prohibiting things on Sundays, based on the Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy -- are still on the books in some places. They're some of the sillier laws in the country. In Texas you couldn't buy anything on Sundays you could do work with, so hardware stores had to put blue price tags on things like hammers up until the law was overturned in 1984. There are still places where you can't buy a car on "the day of rest," let alone booze.

Talk about over-reaching government dictating what businesses can do.

Other attempts to pass laws to abolish cursing, an interpretation of using the Lord's name in vain, have been had. The most amusing attempt was by Seth Bullock, the real Victorian-era sheriff of Deadwood, South Dakota. He cracked down on cussing in his rowdy mining camp only to have his efforts form the basis of the most curse-laden HBO show in the history of television, about 140 years later.

Finally, adultery is still illegal in some states while the Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws in 2003.

So to recap: Three of the Ten Commandments are covered by federal laws, and three are laws in some states. But the other four are nowhere to be found in US law.

From a statistical stance, this sums up the debate about religion and our government: a third of people think this is and should be a Christian nation, others waffle, and most think it's not a good idea in practice.

In fact, none of the Ten Commandments is in the US Constitution. The Constitution is the charter of the government outlining the rights of the people and the limits of government. Comparing the two is like comparing apples with a red herring.

"The Constitutional protections are on what they [the Founders] thought was right and wrong, and what they thought was right and wrong is based on the Ten Commandments," claimed Bill O'Reilly on his cable show.

The question is this: Do we really want to live in a country that makes not honoring your mother and father a crime? Is it wise to have a law mandating that you can't have any other gods, or make false idols, or covet your neighbor's spouse? The Founding Fathers (ahem) clearly thought it wasn't.

Why, if you want America to be more religious, do you need to co-opt history to accomplish it? Have the courage to stand up for your convictions without creating fiction about the founding documents. I don't agree with the Founding Fathers about everything (slavery, women's rights, native peoples rights), but that doesn't make the US Constitution, in my eyes, any less of an amazing feat for humanity.

So go ahead and stand up for your faith and be proud. But lying for it is, ya know, bearing false witness.

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