Ten Commandments Commentary

Ten Commandments FAQ

Edd Doerr is the President of Americans for Religious Liberty and the Senior Editor of Voice of Reason newsletter.  He was the President of the American Humanist Association from 1995-2003 and a board member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice from 1973-2004.  A lecturer and publisher, he was editor of Church & State magazine from 1970-1982.  Active in numerous U.S. Supreme Court cases and congressional and state legislative hearings on religious liberty issues, he has authored twenty-three books and written over 3,000 articles, translations, letter, reviews, short stories, and poems in numerous publications.

Decalogue Daze

By Edd Doerr

May 7 has been designated “Ten Commandments Day” by a fringe organization founded in 2005 called the Ten Commandments Commission (TCC). Of course this group or any other is free to designate any day they please to whatever they please.

What is interesting about the TCC project is the list of sponsors behind it. The more prominent people include Jay Sekulow, head of Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice; Benny Hinn; former congressman and school voucher advocate Floyd Flake; First Amendment revisionist David Barton; erstwhile presidential aspirant Gary Bauer; World magazine’s Joel Belz; convicted Watergater Chuck Colson; Christian Coalition’s Roberta Combes, one of the very few women endorsers; former conservative congressman Bill Dannemeyer; Focus on the Family’s James Dobson; Jerry Falwell; home schooling advocate and defeated Virginia lieutenant governor candidate Mike Farris; American Conservative Union’s David Keene; D. James Kennedy, who once objected to my quoting him verbatim in a Chautauqua lecture; William Murray, son of atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair turned fundamentalist; Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins; Pat Robertson; Lou Sheldon and Rabbi David Lapin, both of whom “allegedly took money from [Jack] Abramoff client eLottery to help defeat a federal ban on Internet gambling” (according to the April 17 Nation); Free Congress Foundation’s Paul Weyrich; and Don Wildmon.

Plainly, this is a veritable rogues gallery of the extreme religious right. Their ostensible goal is to stop an unspecified “secular humanist agenda . . .intent on destroying the moral heritage of our nation.” They are particularly worked up over lawsuits that have sometimes ordered Ten Commandments displays removed from government buildings, occasional unsuccessful challenges to the “In God We Trust” motto on our coinage and currency, and recent efforts to remove “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

This crowd seems unaware that there is no single agreed upon version of the Decalogue and that some versions on government buildings are offensive to some Christians and Jews. They seem unaware that our country flourished before “In God We Trust” began to be placed on coins during the Civil War and on currency after the Korean War, or that “Under God” was added to the Pledge in 1954.  One might wonder how this predominantly Christian country managed so long without pious mottoes and how we won two world wars against an adversary whose troops wore the motto “Gott mit uns” (God is with us) on their belt buckles.

As with recent flaps over claims that there is a “war against Christmas” or a “war against Christianity,” one wonders how this could be in a country whose population, national legislature, executive branch, and courts are over 85% Christian, where 2,000 radio and TV stations broadcast religious programming daily, and where hundreds of thousands of clergy minister to tens of millions of people.

Close examination of the writings and utterances of the men listed above reveals agendas that include gutting the First Amendment, securing tax support for discriminatory faith-based schools, intruding sectarian religion into public schools, and sharply curtailing women’s rights.

It’s okay to have a Ten Commandments Day, but we hear nothing from the religious right about a Sermon on the Mount Day or a Ten Amendments/Bill of Rights Day.