Thou Shalt Piss Me Off on a Daily Basis

That must be the 11th Commandment, according to this administration.

Bloomberg reports:
The Justice Department today filed a brief supporting two Kentucky counties accused of violating the constitutional ban on government establishment of religion by posting framed copies of the Ten Commandments.
The Bush administration has thrown its weight behind the brief,
saying that religion "has played a defining role'' in the nation's history, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to permit Ten Commandments displays in courthouses.
An interesting claim, but I’m not sure that religion has played a defining role in the nation’s history as much as escape from religious persecution has played a defining role in the nation’s history. Kind of a key distinction, especially these days.
"Official acknowledgement and recognition of the Ten Commandments' influence on American legal history comport with the Establishment Clause,'' the administration argued in a brief filed with the court in Washington.
The Establishment Clause reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Often, this clause is referred to as the separation of church and state, but such a phrase cannot be found in the US Constitution. (The phrase originated in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association.) By strict interpretation of the Establishment Clause, which in sum total seeks to prevent a state-sponsored religion, the administration’s claim that displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses is still dubious at best. It is hard to argue that the exhibition of a religious document in a governmental venue, particularly one in which the visitors are often subject to the laws of said government, is not indicative of a state endorsement if that particular religion.

A logical argument invokes a Sikh defendant, for example, who appears in court wearing recognizable garments announcing his subscription to another religion—one that shares no history with Judeo-Christian traditions. Upon seeing the display of the Ten Commandments, is he not meant to feel that justice might be better served were the document of equal meaning to him?

Suggesting the display is simply meant to recognize the Ten Commandments’ “influence on American legal history” is debatable. One might just as easily argue that secular humanism has had as great—or greater—an impact. The problem is, of course, that the Framers were vague, and perhaps even more importantly, did little to accommodate those who follow no religion at all and seek to be free from its influence in the public sphere.

Undoubtedly, the debate will rage on. It’s curious to note, however, that these days the struggle increasingly seems to be less between the religious and non-religious, but between those who respect individual religious rights and those who don’t. People of faith can be found in both categories, and those of us who do not share their views should remember to appreciate the faithful who respect ours.

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