The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Throughout most of American history that has been taken to mean — oddly enough — that government can't establish a religion. It is the Supreme Court in recent decades that has taken this straightforward admonition and made it an impossible-to-understand mess. So the other day Justice David Souter mused aloud whether a display of only the last five commandments — so much for honoring your mother and father (No. 4) — might be constitutional in a way that a display of all 10 is not.
A better question is: If a Ten Commandments display establishes a religion, exactly what religion is it? Is it Judaism? And if so, Orthodox or Reform? Or is it Christianity? If so, Roman Catholic or Protestant? If the latter, is it Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, or something else? Maybe Seventh-day Adventist? If government has gone to the trouble of establishing a religion, shouldn't all of us know which one? Or is this just another case of government's notorious bureaucratic inefficiency? It meant to establish a religion, but memos got crossed somewhere and it couldn't agree on its fundamental tenets?
Friday, March 04, 2005
The 11th Commandment
"Thou Shalt Make No Sense". Rich Lowry has a column about the "Ten Commandments" cases now before Our Robed Philosopher Kings. I liked this part: