Yesterday, a Christian-only group of 16 members of the House of Representatives introduced H. Res. 1175, a resolution declaring official government endorsement of Ten Commandments Weekend. The resolution, authored by Congressman Paul Broun, claims that, “the Ten Commandments are a widely respected code of personal conduct and a declaration of fundamental principles for a fair and just society that transcend the diversity of cultural expression and faith in the United States”.
This assessment assessment of the diversity of culture and religion in the United States is plainly false. The Ten Commandments are only an artifact of Christian religion. Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, practitioners of Native American traditions and Wiccans all lack the Ten Commandments as part of their religious tradition. Judaism does not identity any “Ten Commandments either”, even though the Ten Commandments were lifted out of their tradition.
Over the last few decades, the American Religious Identification Survey has found that Christianity is in decline, and lack of religious identity has been consistently on the rise, in all 50 states. Increasingly large numbers of Americans have rejected the Ten Commandments.
A resolution like H. Res. 1175 is more than just a violation of the Constitution’s requirement that Congress enact no establishment of religion. It’s a direct and intentional insult to every non-Christian in America. The Ten Commandments starts with the following demand: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. It’s a command that there be no religious freedom, no diversity of worship, that everyone must follow only one form of worship.
That’s not in accord with the values of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Paul Broun’s resolution asserts of the Ten Commandments, a “vital role they played in the development of the institutions and national character of the United States.” Yet, the Founding Fathers explicitly defied the first of the Ten Commandments, placing in the Constitution a ban on religious tests for any public office, and further establishing freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.
Other commandments are specific to ancient Jewish culture, and are not reflected in the Constitution, the single foundational legal document that makes the United States of America what it is. The second commandment’s ban, for example, on artwork that displeases the sensibilities of religious authorities is completely contradicted by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. There’s nothing in the Constitution about any Sabbath, or about requirements for honoring one’s parents.
The Ten Commandments are profoundly alien to the foundation of America’s government and public culture. There are some Americans who worship the Ten Commandments privately, believing that they were the direct creation of a supernatural being, but then, there are plenty of different private beliefs that are held by some Americans – belief in the predictive power of the Zodiac, for example. Our national character is fundamentally defined by the idea that those beliefs ought to remain a matter of private conscience, not fodder for political opportunism by members of the federal government.
The following are the cosponsors who added their name behind Paul Broun’s, in support of the historically inaccurate and constitutionally invalid resolution H. Res. 1175:
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA, District 10), District Office Phone Number: 706-447-3857 — principal sponsor
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN, District 6), District Office Phone Number: 320-253-5931
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD, District 6), District Office Phone Number: 301-797-6043
Rep. John Boozman (R-AR, District 3), District Office Phone Number: 479-782-7787
Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX, District 11), District Office Phone Number: 325-659-4010
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC, District 5), District Office Phone Number: 336-778-0211
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ, District 2), District Office Phone Number: 623-776-7911
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX, District 1), District Office Phone Number: 866-535-6302
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS, District 3), District Office Phone Number: 662-324-0007
Rep. Steve King (R-IA, District 5), District Office Phone Number: 712-732-4197
Rep. John Kline (R-MN, District 2), District Office Phone Number: 952-808-1213
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO, District 5), District Office Phone Number: 719-520-0055
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL, District 1), District Office Phone Number: 850-664-1266
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA, District 46), District Office Phone Number: 714-960-6483
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX, District 21), District Office Phone Number: 512-306-0439
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC, District 2), District Office Phone Number: 843-521-2530