I’m torn on this. On the one hand, I applaud Roy Moore for standing up for the faith and defending it against those who seek to remove religion from society. On the other hand, I believe in the separation of church and state and Moore’s religious defense of the monument on state grounds is a violation of that.
The Left Hand
Jon of Blog One Another raises an interesting point:
Helen, let’s say you belonged to a church in Indonesia. Your church was attacked by Muslim extremists: the building bombed, people hurt and killed. You identified the assailants and pressed charges against them. You, a Christian, and your assailants, Islamists, appear together in a court of law. And behind the judge, carved into the wall in large flowing Arabic script, are the words, “There is no God but Allah; Muhammed is the servant of Allah.”
How would you feel? Would you have a fair trial?
Now let’s say you are a young girl in high school. You and your family are practicing pagans. You are tired of being harassed in school — of being called a witch, a Satanist, being told you’re going to hell, having your locker trashed, being pushed down and cursed by people who identify themselves as Christians. You press charges against your assailants, and against your school for not doing anything to stop it. You, a pagan, and your assailants, Christians, go to the judicial building. In the lobby of the judicial building is a two-ton monument of the Ten Commandments — a tribute to a religion that is not yours, and to a god you find antithetical to your beliefs.
How would you feel? Would you have a fair trial?
Jon’s point is this: is the placement of such a monument which conveys a religious message that may not be the one of the defendant a hinderance to justice being served? Is the message of such a monument the rules by which we are playing and are those that follow the tenets of that monument the ones who have the judicial advantage? Do only Christians deserve justice while pagans are denied?
Next question: if the argument for keeping the monument is that it represents something that influenced our justice system, shouldn’t there also be a monument to Hammurabi’s code or to Napoleon (i.e. for the Napoleonic code)? What about something relating to English common law (a monument depicting the Magna Carta)? Our justice system has many influencing origins and we shouldn’t be favoring one over the other.
Last point/question against the arguments in favor of the monument: I heard someone say on the news that it reminds us of our Christian moral heritage. (My apologies for not getting the name. I was listening to NPR on my way to the store.) So is it there so that people might see it and convert to Christianity? When exactly did our moral heritage become Christian. I’d argue that it’s Judeo-Christian at least and Abrahamic (including Islam) at most. You are not going to automatically drop your idols and believe in the Christian God just because you see 10 moral theses chiseled on a piece of stone. If it’s to inspire civic behavior, I’d argue that we are not a theocracy and therefore, not all of the 10 Commandments apply to our civic laws. If they did, the freedom of religion guaranteed to us in the Bill of Rights would not exist.
The Right Hand
As much as I argue for the separation of church and state, I think we are too overzealous in separating the church from the state. I like that the ACLU argues for my civil liberties but they take it way too far. We can’t have manger scenes in public, but we can have menorahs and crescent moons. The people at my church in Santa Cruz used to joke that we went to the MLK Convocation every year because it was the one university event that was allowed to start with prayer. (I actually had a Biology TA ask me “what the h*** [I was] doing in Biology as a Christian????” That was the last time I wore my [very tiny] cross when I went to class.) We can’t sing religious Christmas carols in school; but we can sing Hannukah songs all we want.
I can understand the anger of many of those protesting the removal of the 10 Commandments monument. It’s a sign of their faith and denying its inclusion in public is equal to denying them the right to be practicing Christians. I am not ashamed of the Gospel even if I might occasionally be ashamed by some who claim to spread it; and I reserve the right to stand up for my faith in public. I support those who are there keeping vigil because I understand their position and respect their desire that their faith not be overlooked.
The Hands Clapping
So what is the action that should be taken? Should we engage in civil disobedience (a Romans 13 violation) to prevent its removal as Dr. Dobson is calling for on his radio address? Or… is Roy Moore wrong for supporting disobedience against the government of which he is an agent and to which he swore an oath to uphold the law? (This would count as bearing false witness [breaking an oath and in effect lying], which is one of the prhibitions in the commandments that Moore is trying to protect.)
We have a 10 Commandments monument in the courthouse square of the town in which I live which has the commandments in Hebrew and English. A fuss was made a few years back and the majority of people voted to keep it, with the added thought that the inclusion of the Hebrew added a cultural memorial aspect to it. Could they maybe chisel some Hebrew on there? (That might call off the ACLU dogs.) Or… could they maybe incorporate other judicial influences into the monument, which would make it a historical thing and not specifically religious?
This is definitely not a black and white issue!