Monday, March 14, 2005

Thou Shalt And Thou Shalt Not

The US Supreme Court is considering the legality of displaying the 10 Commandments in or near government buildings and their decision is awaited by millions of people. Of course, there are the interested parties, pressure groups, people of faith and people of no faith. There are also the stand-up comedians who, regardless of the outcome, should have enough material for a 6 week run in Vegas after this episode in constitutional jurisprudence is decided. The issue is typically described as a ‘battle over the presence of religion in the public square’. No city or town in America has had a public square since the Music Man foisted his 76 trombones on a gaggle of gullible Iowans. It could be described as ‘the battle over the display of graven images on non-taxable property’; but Commandment II tends to confuse the debate in that case. If you believe in II, forget the graven image. If you don’t believe in II, a graven image of Miss September or Tom Cruise might be more to your liking.

The 10 Commandments are collectively known as the ‘Decalogue’. Luckily there are 10 of them; if there were only six it would be the ‘Sexalogue’. That sounds too much like a holiday in Bangkok. In any case, the proponents and opponents of displaying graven images on non-taxable property can be conveniently labelled as Decaphiles and Decaphobes. Extreme Decaphiles would like to have 5,000 pound granite displays of the Big 10 scattered around everywhere. They are passionate in their belief that the USA was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. They tend not to live in New York City or Los Angeles. Extreme Decaphobes would like to have the word ‘God’ removed from anything the government touches. If they had their way, coins would be re-minted to include the phrase ‘In Nothing We Trust’. (Given the state of the Federal budget deficit, they might have a point.) They tend not to live in Biloxi or Little Rock.

The Robed Ones cannot be very happy about having to sit through this moral maelstrom, much less to decide who wins. For starters, before beginning the arguments about whether the word ‘God’ belongs within 500 yards of the local Department of Motor Vehicles office, some guy stood up and called out ‘God save the Untied States and this honourable court’. Depending on what they decide, that might have to be changed to ‘If anyone is up there, give us a break’. Then there is the fact that the ACLU is involved. They never bring a case involving the interstate transportation of volley balls to the Supreme Court. Oh, no! They always have to dig up the abortion and free speech and habeas corpus stuff. Instead of rambling on about whiplash, like most lawyers, they have to get into the separation of church and state. There are also the implications for the working schedule of the Court. As Justice Breyer said, there may be no way of dealing with this issue except “on a case by case basis”. Given the fact that there are only 9 Supremes and there are probably half a million stone masons, it’s a good thing that the Justices are in the job for life. Any sane Justice would make sure that case by case includes a case of Johnny Walker Red.

In the final analysis, there is no answer to this debate that will serve to mollify the millions. There will either be Sauterne parties in Seattle or Long Neck nights in Lubbock. The Decaphiles and Decaphobes take this issue very, very seriously. Regardless of the outcome, there will be millions of Americans who feel bitter and angry. If there were only an eleventh commandment: Thou Shalt Lighten Up.


Blogger Abby Taylor said...

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6:31 PM  
Blogger Abby Taylor said...

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7:19 PM  
Blogger Africanuck said...

Well, I'm not too far from where they found the original Ten Commandments. Next time I'm down in Sharm el Sheik, I'll have a look around and see if maybe there isn't that eleventh one lying around somewhere.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Blighty said...

Very amusing! And I like the idea of Thou Shalt Lighten Up. I thought the US was a secular state, or is that changing?

10:17 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I used to consider myself a pretty religious Catholic. Since November, though, I would consider myself more agnostic or athiest. Religion just seems more and more like it's the source of most of the problems of the world. Without religious fanatics, there wouldn't be as many wars, for one.

If God is so all-loving, then why would he send people to hell for not believing in Him? And the idea of heaven and hell just seems far too simplistic an interpretation of what's out there. Most likely, it's something humanity hasn't yet been able to comprehend.

The US was never a secular state, and, at least for now, will not become one.

Games are for Children

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Marlowe said...

The problem I have with religion is that it is so obviously man-made. The whole notion of a heaven above us, with God looking down, and hell below... Well, we know it's not true. Above us/around us is a universe and there is no 'below us'. And for most of this planet's life man didn't even exist. Anything that has been disproved by science becomes metaphor, of course, and anything that hasn't we're meant to take literally. If there is any greater intelligence out there it bears no resemblance to the Gods we invented when we thought the world was flat. It would be something beyond our comprehension.

5:53 PM  
Blogger lovedoghell said...

Prediction. Supreme Court will decide that it is OK to keep the 10 Commandments displayed as long as the Sixth Commandment is crossed out.

6:47 PM  

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