Last week we learned that more than 20% of American families are struggling to put food on the table and pay rent or mortgage...that Middle East terrorists are stoning women to death and lopping off the heads of those opposing them...that Hamas and the Israeli government continue to put hate above heart...that the Ebola virus, fueled by ignorance and poverty, is decimating a handful of African nations...that ice is rapidly disappearing from earth’s two poles.
Yet despite these dire news headlines, a few foolish intrepid souls are still worrying about a Ten Commandments monument in a public square. Can somebody just say “Hey guys, get a life!”
I am firmly opposed to any government espousing or endorsing a specific religion. Jefferson’s separation of church and state may not be in the Constitution, but it is certainly part of our American fabric and tradition.
But a Ten Commandments monument, like roadside crosses honoring fallen police officers, is not pushing religious doctrine. “Thou shalt not kill” is quite different than doctrinal inscriptions “Thou shalt attend sacrament meeting, avoid e-cigarettes, and aspire to planet Kolob.”
The latest monument scuffle occurred in New Mexico where a federal judge agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that a Ten Commandments structure erected and paid for by individuals and placed on the lawn in front of the Bloomfield City Hall has the “principal effect of endorsing religion.”
I don’t see it. Most of the commandments are common sense (Thou shalt not steal, covet the neighbor’s house, etc.) or suggestions based on behavior rather than society law (honoring parents, shying away from adultery). Only a few are specifically directed at a spiritual purpose, but even these do not advance a certain religion, sect, or even broad religious persuasion.
Be honest Р no child is going to visit the monument, see a commandment against graven images and shout “Hallelujah, I’m going to become a Baptist!”
Additionally, few people walking through a public square or park really spend much time analyzing plaques and monuments. Often, it is hard to even see the inscription thanks to a combination of weather erosion and bird droppings. Last week I went to an urban amphitheater and peered at a plaque denoting the founders. Later I saw one of the founders who said “Is that plaque still there? Last time I looked my name was almost unreadable.”
The New Mexico lawsuit was brought by two people who practice the Wiccan religion. I’m not versed in Wiccan beliefs, but figure the religion’s precepts are somewhere between the Great Mandala and Harry Potter. Frankly, I would have no problem if the Wiccans wanted to pony up money and put their own display outside city hall. The groundskeeper would have less lawn to mow.
Our world faces a lot of challenges. Getting our panties in a bunch over a cross on the highway or piece of granite in a public square hardly ranks up there with the fight to cure cancer or sustain adequate food production.
Yes, we need freedom from government-sponsored religion. We also need freedom from stupidity.