The Ten Commandments have no business in U.S. courtrooms. They are in stark conflict with the U.S. Constitution and values and have no place in our courthouses or public buildings. A judge cannot follow both the Commandments and the law without violating one or the other.
Of the Commandments, only two can reasonably be described as valid bases for laws: the imprecations against murder and theft.
The first four commandments are clear violations of the religious liberties guaranteed under the Constitution. If a person of Hindu belief were to walk into a courtroom seeking justice and see these commandments, that person could reasonably conclude that his or her beliefs are illegal under the law. This stands in stark contrast to the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
Commandment 3 breaks the First Amendment guarantee freedom of speech. Commandments 5, 9 and 10 are generally good advice, but probably also fail the First Amendment test.
It’s worth noting that even within Christendom there is no agreement on what the Ten Commandments say. They are never listed as such in the Bible, and they are worded differently in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Protestant and Catholic groups traditionally break them down differently, with the Catholics understandably playing down the part about worshiping idols and graven images.
So if a law were passed requiring the Ten Commandments to be posted in every courtroom, immediate conflict would arise over which version to use. This, incidentally, is exactly why the Founding Fathers believed it wise to keep government out of the religion business, and vice versa.
The Ten Commandments in plain English:
1. You must worship no god except the Jewish/Christian/Muslim god, Yahweh (Jehovah).
2. You will not make or worship idols or graven images, like people of many other religions (not to mention lots of Christians) do.
3. You will not speak god’s name in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day (whichever day you happen to believe that is) and keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. Do not murder (unless the government says it’s OK).
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not lie.
10. Don’t covet other people’s property.