Thursday, March 03, 2005
( 7:17 AM )
Americans seem to think that there is simply no way that our democracy could be replaced by some form of soft fascism or oligarchy, and yet they do nothing to sustain that democracy and the pillars that support it. One of those pillars is the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. It reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
Yet leaders of this country declare publicly that they believe our government should be intertwined with religion - and not just any religion, their religion. The rise of fundamentalism around the world is harkening a new era of intolerance and war. In our country, it's the rise of fundamental Christianity that is impacting the sustainability of our democracy. Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over the display of the Ten Commandements in government buildings.
Mathew Staver told the court that they shouldn't look at whether Kentucky officials intended to endorse religion by hanging the displays; instead they should accept that the Ten Commandments played an influential role in secular law and are therefore appropriate.
Justice David Souter said that would invite counties to pursue religious endorsement while simply calling it an acknowledgment of history.
"Should anyone believe these displays would be there for any other reason than religious display of the Commandments?" Souter asked. "The court doesn't say you can involve the state in religion so long as you hide the ball well enough."
The court's decision, expected by July, would clarify church and state boundaries that are increasingly the subject of a heated national debate. The Ten Commandments have become a symbol of the struggle over whether government should have a religious or secular foundation. At its base, the argument is about the country's founding, its history and direction.
The thing is, our democracy and Constitution were not based on the Ten Commandments or any religious law - there is no mention of the Ten Commandments at the Philadelphia Convention, there is no mention of them in the Federalist Papers or any other documents or arguments made at the time when our government was being formed. In fact, the main leaders of the time were Deists and they believed they were using poltiical philosophies and principles of Elightenment and Reason as they formed the basic foundations for our Democracy.
There is a blatant hypocrisy in implying that the Ten Commandments are a secular homage to our founders' intentions. the first five of the Commandments are solely about God! There is nothing about governance in those rules. The next are moral laws, ones that are repeated in virtually every religion and society since the beginning of time. In fact, in one of the very first treaties signed by George Washington (The Treaty of Tripoli), he declares on behalf of the fledgling country that indeed, it is NOT a Christian country:
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
There is a creeping fascism in this country and if we are not on guard, it will replace our democracy before we know it. I'm sorry, but something as blatantly religious as the Ten Commandments do not belong on court walls, in state houses, or anywhere that taxpayer dollars support as enacting or standing on behalf of the US Government. The irony is that the religious fundamentalists don't realize that by breaking down the wall between church and state, they endanger their religion, not empower it.