Jon Rowe has another excellent post fisking the commonly heard argument that the Ten Commandments are the basis of the US legal system. This in light of the impending oral arguments in the McCreary case by the Supreme Court on the question of a Ten Commandments display in McCreary County, Kentucky. The county has been almost obsessive about getting that display into the county courthouse, changing it three different times to try to get around a judicial ruling against the county on the matter. Here is the county’s explanation for why they want the Ten Commandments display there:
The Ten Commandments have profoundly influenced the formation of Western legal thought and the formation of our country. That influence is clearly seen in the Declaration of Independence,
which declared that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Ten Commandments provide the moral background of the Declaration of Independence and the foundation of our legal tradition.
But this is, of course, simply absurd. If anything, the legal concepts inherent in the Ten Commandments are quite at odds with the concepts found in the Declaration of Independence. Nowhere in the Ten Commandments, or anywhere else in the bible for that matter, do you find anything even close to the concept of human beings having unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In fact, you find quite the opposite of those things in the very first commandment, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. How on earth does one find the concept of liberty in a set of rules that demands punishment to the third and fourth generations for those that violate them? As Jon says:
On the one hand we have a Jealous, Duty-Demanding, God of Scripture who forbids the worship of False Gods, and on the other a Rights-Granting God of Nature who endows men with the unalienable right to openly worship no God or False Gods.
As I have noted before, 7 of the ten commandments would be entirely unconstitutional in our system of government. If anything, one is forced to perform elaborate mental gymnastics to try and reconcile the legal concepts of the ten commandments with the U.S. Constitution. It’s a position that can only be supported in an Orwellian manner where one declares that up is down and black is white.