In the United States, today marks Constitution Day.
Today is the 225th anniversary of the day the delegates to the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the document that would serve as the newest framework for the government of the United States of America.
Courtesy of Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat from West Virginia), children throughout the land who attend federally funded schools will take part of the day and learn about this cherished document (except in Chicago where the teachers are on strike).
While I am describing the United States Constitution as the basis of our country’s laws, there are some folk who believe that the Ten Commandments are the basis for our country’s laws. They feel so adamant about this that they want to place the Decalogue in various public places, such as courthouses (see here and here and here).
It is an interesting theory to state that the United States legal system is based on the Ten Commandments because the U.S. Constitution and the current United States Civil Code supports none of the ten edicts brough down by Moses from Mt. Sinai.
Allow me to demonstrate this using the King James version.
No American law mandates worshipping this LORD as God or prohibits the exercise of any other religion.
The First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the making of any law establishing a religion.
In addition, Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution prohibits any religious test being administered as a qualification for any office of the United States.
II) “Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above…” (Deuteronomy 5:8)
No American law prohibits the making of any graven image, any likeness of any thing in heaven (i.e., angels), or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth.
III) “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain…” (Deuteronomy 5:11)
The First Amendment to the Constitution states that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.
IV) “Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it…” (Deuteronomy 5:12)
There is no current American law mandating that people rest on the seventh day.
V) “Honour they father and thy mother…” (Deuteronomy 5:16)
Again, the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of speech means that all children are free to verbally dishonor their parents if they so choose.
VI) “Thou shalt not kill” (Deuteronomy 5:17)
The United States does not follow this commandment as the death penalty is sanctioned.
VII) “Neither shalt thou commit adultery” (Deuteronomy 5:18)
There is no current federal law prohibiting adultery.
VIII) “Neither shalt thou steal” (Deuteronomy 5:19)
There are indeed laws on the books sanctioning those individuals who take property that does not belong to them. However, the federal government and the United States Constitution actually allow for the confiscation of items from private individuals.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution allows for private property to be taken away from its owner in a concept called “eminent domain“. Yes, the phrase “just compensation” is used to denote that property cannot be taken without the owner receiving something. However, if I must give up something that I do not want to give up, I consider that stealing regardless of whatever consolation I receive.
In addition, every time I earn a paycheck, the United States government steals from me in the form of the income tax, which is sanctioned by the Sixteenth Amendment.
IX) “Neither shalt thou bear false witness against they neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20)
While there are prohibitions against uttering falsehoods while on the witness stand (this is called perjury), the First Amendment’s protection of free speech allows people to voice all sorts of false information.
In fact, just recently, the Unites States Supreme Court said it was perfectly legal to lie about military service.
X) “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor’s wife, neither shaly thou covet thy neighbor’s house…” (Deuteronomy 5:21)
There is no item in the Constitution or Civil Code forbidding anyone from coveting.
Of the Ten Commandments, there are some edicts that are completely ignored by the laws of America (i.e., Sabbath, adultery, covet) and there are some that are only partially followed (i.e., killing, stealing, lying).
So the next time some thumper wants to place the Ten Commandments in a public space stating the Decalogue is the basis of our country, they should be better informed and be told that our country does it level-headed best to actually ignore the inscriptions on those tablets.
The basis of our country’s laws is the United States Constitution. Happy Constitution Day!