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PERSPECTIVE: Foundational law

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal by Haskell County to maintain a monument engraved with the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn with private funds. This leaves in place the decision of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which declared the monument in violation of the establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution. It appears the monument must be removed from county property.

This decision by the Supreme Court leaves much confusion regarding monuments and other items deemed to have religious significance. For example, the state of Texas has been able to leave its copy of the Ten Commandments on its capitol grounds. Confused? You are not alone.

It would seem that anything that has any connection with Judeo-Christian principles and teachings is dangerous to society. It is as if the display of the Ten Commandments is a subversive approach by Christians to convert people to the faith.

The Ten Commandments hung on the wall of my grade school foyer. They were seen as a clear guide to building strong character and giving respect and fair treatment to others. They were posted because the Ten Commandments are implicitly, if not explicitly, a foundation for our American system of law. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe having the commandments on the wall for all to see can be construed as lethal injections of religion.

It would not be surprising for someone soon to suggest that all traces of religious expression be removed from our federal buildings and monuments in Washington D.C. It does not take long when touring our nation’s capital to recognize the workmen would need to deface multiple monuments and buildings to remove references to God and quotes from the Bible.

There seems to be a continued effort to remove every hint of influence and explicit expression of the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation. Certainly government should not ignore or impose religion on people who have a different faith or no faith at all. At the same time, history is what it is. Our nation does have Judeo-Christian roots. Display of religious items in keeping with our history and heritage should not be prohibited.
These kinds of issues will not go away anytime soon. Our culture is daily becoming more hostile and intolerant of anything that hints of the Christian faith. Many would prefer for those of us who hold to faith to remove ourselves from the public arena. They are willing to rewrite the history of our nation if it is required in order to diminish appreciation of the contribution of Judeo-Christian principles and Scriptures. But remember—truth is not erased just, for example, because the president of Iran declares the holocaust did not happen. Neither will the contribution of the Christian faith and the Bible be eradicated from history.

This decision saddens me. Yet the influence of the Ten Commandments will remain foundational—a part of the fabric of American law—whether or not a monument stands on county, state or national property. It behooves us to teach our children of the Judeo-Christian influence on the founding of our nation and its laws.

By the way, God is still on His throne.

Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

Anthony L. Jordan

Author: Anthony L. Jordan

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  • Rodney Jones

    So many things came to mind as I read your post. I remember that with few exceptions all public office holders are given and must acknowledge(?) allegiance to a set of governing loyalties (Constitution) that were at some time founded upon ultimate judgment. No judgment of mankind has any hope of accident free decision, so we swear by that which is greater than we are. Had the court in Alabama defaced the first three commands to revere God, perhaps the admonitions against stealing, murder, and other criminal mindsets would have been acceptable in a venue which made decisions daily upon whether or not someone had victimized another by breaking those “commands.” What the Judeo-Christian understands is that the main understanding of judgment is true ultimate righteousness. That is something our 550 some odd national leaders continually fail to accept or acknowledge.
    You mentioned that private funding had placed the monument. I see another disparity. When a corporation, either local, regional, national, or international wants to place their name in prominence, they have no difficulty in “purchasing” that right as they buy our public buildings and other such venues for money and their advertising dollar. Yet, although receipt of that private money is acceptable, the historical significance of the beliefs of our founding fathers, and most of our greatest leaders within this country are no longer acceptable.
    I do not remember much of the two books by George Orwell, (Animal Farm, 1984) but it seems more and more prophetic that the original intent of the founders of a nation who chose to establish religious freedom rather than a national religion continues to be undermined daily, as each of certain rights become faded. Will they finally be replaced by a “big brother is always right” type of standard?
    Is it not a sad situation that the same faith statement, which welcomed the pluralistic cultures and beliefs of the huddled masses who had suffered prejudice and ethical abuse in foreign countries (perhaps due to their religious and cultural ideas back home), has now become an intolerable faith statement? Without a doubt we, as a nation, have many sins to answer for: slavery, sins in international politics, and sins in international marketplaces.
    The sins we must answer for bring us to the sin committed now by the church. I recently read the book God’s Politics by Jim Wallis. I did not find much that I could agree with, but several of his observations were on target. The faithful are failing to provide acknowledgment of their personal faith in public places because someone, somewhere has convinced them that religion or personal faith statements are, “private.” Wallis is right on as he states that everything a Christian believes is a personal choice. If a person truly believes something, all of his/her activities and choices are made as a result of that personal faith. It is not something that government can mandate to a closet, it is personal, but cannot and must not be private. I hear many stories of hostile work environments where co-workers and even supervisors openly discuss their sexual perversions, their alcoholic endeavors, their new vocabulary and such other “accepted” communication. Personal faith can/must never be a private faith. Wallis’s book speaks of the necessity of a prophetic presence needed in politics. I believe a prophetic presence is needed in every venue of life. Yes, some of our friends, and even our family may get tired of hearing our comments. Make sure they are not the only ones who hear your comments. Why should your friends and family have to endure something that your enemies do not?
    By all means, teach your children. At the same time, learn from your children. Several generations of our children have not listened to their parents, why? You may not be able to teach one thing when you appear to be living another.
    P.S. Not only is He still on the throne, He is still in charge.

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