Mark sent me this
South Carolina's governor has signed a bill to allow the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer to be part of displays at public buildings.
Attorney General Henry McMaster said the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer have an established place in teaching American constitutional history and civic virtue. He says they and other documents on display would teach morality, ethics and integrity.
You can probably already hear the whoosh of the ACLU filing a lawsuit...or maybe they'll wait until the first actual display goes up.
Anyway, this is a good time to revisit this old post
of mine comparing the First Amendment with the First Commandment:
A standard argument against atheism is that without religion one has no basis for morality, which is just plain wrong. Being an American means holding a number of secular values. Some religious people argue that our laws and ideals are based on Judeo-Christian teachings, but there are stark examples of how that thinking is just flat-out wrong.
One nice example is the difference between the First Amendment and the First Commandment.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, includes two clauses regarding religion. The Establishment Clause essentially protects against state-sponsored religion. Even in its most conservative interpretation, it is meant to insure that the government will not found a church, ala The Church of England. The Free Exercise Clause is meant to ensure each individual's right to believe and practice whatever they like, as long as they don't infringe on anyone else's rights.
Now let's take a look at the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods before Me. Hmm...seems pretty clear. I guess one could argue that as long as you're a monotheist in one of the Abrahamic religions like Islam, Christianity, or Judaism, that you're kosher with this commandment. But even in a fairly liberal interpretation, it's clear that becoming, say, a Hindu or (gasp!) an atheist, is right out.
It's pretty hard for a religious person to argue with a straight face that freedom of religion is a religious value. For obvious reasons, gods tend to be jealous sorts, not open to having you shop around for competing religions. How could you possibly hold that "Go ahead, believe whatever you want" is a Judeo-Christian value, when it is diametrically opposed to the First Commandment?
But wait...if the moral injunction to believe as you please didn't have its foundations in Judeo-Christian authority, then where did it come from? Could it have been good, old-fashioned reason, based on Enlightenment principles? The Founding Fathers had plenty of bad examples of how to run a state. They basically used their noggins to come up with a value system based on freedom and plurality. Note, these were moral choices they made, and the foundation was secular.
So next time someone tries to argue that religion is a necessary condition for morality, just point them in the direction of the Bill of Rights.