Ten Amendments Day

You may not know this, but today has been designated Ten Commandments Day. It sounds pretty innocuous, right? After all, why would anyone object to a celebration of the Ten Commandments? And, of course, it’s every American’s right under the First Amendment to celebrate the precepts of his or her religion. Nothing wrong with that.

So why do I have misgivings about this Ten Commandments Day?

Could it have something to do with the rhetoric on the website? For example:

Is it possible that the mark of God– the Ten Commandments was placed in America over 500 years ago?

Is it possible that God claimed the United States over 200 years before the declaration of independence?

Is it possible that the notion of One Nation Under God literally got its stamp of approval in the wilderness of North America ?

Or how about:

Recent court rulings have threatened the very fabric and foundation of our culture and faith. The Ten Commandments, which have served as the moral foundation and anchor of our great country, are systematically being removed from public places. Public displays of the Ten Commandments have been a powerful visual testimony to the fact that the United States of America is “one nation under God.” Their removal from public places shows that those with a secular humanist agenda are intent on destroying the moral heritage of our nation.

Those who care about traditional values cannot passively sit by and watch the removal of the very principles that made this country great. The Ten Commandments are the heart of all moral code and must be restored to the heart of our society.

We are inviting all Christians, churches, synagogues, ministry leaders, religious bookstores and everyone who is interested in preserving traditional values to join us in a national and global movement to restore the Word of God to our nation.

Or, more chillingly:

We cannot let those who wish to remove all vestiges of Judeo-Christian morality from our society succeed. History has shown that no civilized society or government can exist successfully without recognition, acceptance, adherence, and submission to an absolute authority.

“No society or government can exist successfully without recognition, acceptance, and submission to an absolute authority?” Uh-oh.

“Submission to an absolute authority”? Millions of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians throughout the heartland are calling for submisison by our government to an “absolute authority.” What about freedom? What about Buddhists, Hindus, and other people following other religion that does not involve worship of the Judeo-Christian God? What about atheists and agnostics? And who interprets what this “absolute authority” wants our nation to do, pray tell?

Now do you see why I have misgivings?

Rhetoric such as that found in the Ten Commandments Day website is anathema to the principles upon which this nation was founded! This nation was founded on the principles enshrined in the Constitution and the the Bill of Rights. Contrary to what the religious right says, this nation was not founded as a “Christian nation.” It was founded as a secular nation in which freedom of worship was enshrined in the very first Amendment to the Constitution. Indeed, the prohibition on the government against establishing or favoring any religion and the freedom of religion for U.S. citizens are co-equal with freedom of speech and assembly and the freedom to petition the government for redresses, all of which are enumerated in the First Amendment. Before the U.S. Constitution was even written, Thomas Jefferson promulgated the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which states “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”

Fortunately, those who fear the imposition of a narrow sectarian religious view on our Government have organized an alternative for today: Ten Amendments Day. Its purpose:

Powerful forces are working to undermine the principles that have kept Americans free for 215 years. Free speech is confined to fenced-in zones. Privacy is invaded without warrant. Citizens are held without formal charges and without legal counsel.

Most threatening, religious activists are seeking to install God in our government. On May 7th, a Ten Commandments Day Commission and millions of followers are lobbying to replace the Ten Amendments with the Ten Commandments, replacing our civil rights with their religious preferences. This attempt to align the power of government with the authority of God challenges the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and endangers the rights protected by the other Nine.

I’m not sure if the undermining of the Establishment Clause is the biggest threat to our liberties, but it’s plenty big enough and certainly worth being a cause of serious concern to those of us who believe in a secular government. For the protection of people of all religions and people who are not religious, the government must not be allowed to show favoritism towards any religion, even a religion that is followed by the majority of Americans.

For that reason, I urge everyone to take a moment today to read the Bill of Rights and contemplate the liberties that it protects, liberties that we all too easily take for granted.