MOSES CARRIED THEM DOWN FROM MT. SINAI by hand, still warm from the hand of God. But on Wednesday morning, government minions used a cold hydraulic forklift to pick up and remove the 10 Commandments from the highest court of law in Alabama.
What should we think of this controversy? What does it reveal about politics and culture in America today? And why are Leftists hypocritically on both sides of the issue of whether to separate Church and State?
This latest battle in our culture war began when Roy Moore, without prior notice, had a 5,300 pound hunk of granite moved in the dark of night into the entryway to the Alabama Supreme Court, where until days ago he presided as Chief Justice.
Moore was elected the state’s Chief Justice after, as a minor backwater judge, he gained huge publicity by picking a fight with the American Civil Liberties Union by posting the 10 Commandments in his courtroom and refusing to take them down.
The hunk of granite he installed at the Alabama Supreme Court was also carved with the 10 Commandments. After defying a federal judge’s order to remove it and the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to overturn that order, Moore was suspended as a justice in the system of justice he had sworn to uphold.
Moore has argued that his actions did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition of any “establishment of religion.” This part of our Bill of Rights, he says, restricts only the United States Congress, not the State of Alabama.
For better or worse, this argument was settled almost 140 years ago when the Union defeated the Confederacy to end the War Between the States. (The winners called this conflict the “Civil War,” a propaganda term implying that the war was always fought entirely inside one country and that therefore the Southern states never actually seceded. And yet, oddly, the victors held legal ceremonies to “readmit” to the Union these states they said had never left.)
Prior to that war Thomas Jefferson, John C. Calhoun and others had argued for the doctrine of “nullification.” The states were superior to the Federal Government they had created, this argument went, and the states retained the power to nullify federal laws (including tariffs and taxes) within their own borders.
When asked if he could punish or stifle a newspaper that had criticized him, President Jefferson replied that the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom prohibited the Federal Government from doing so. But, added Jefferson, the government of the state where the newspaper was published did have such power.
In the wake of the War Between the States, the 14th Amendment ratified in 1868 held that the equal protections accorded by our Bill of Rights to U.S. citizens must be honored by state and local governments. The State of Alabama has no more right to abridge freedom of speech or of the press than does the Federal Government.
The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or of abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Former Alabama Chief Justice Moore has said that this restrains only the Congress of the United States, not the Government of Alabama, and that therefore the federal courts have no jurisdiction over his 10 Commandments display.
If Mr. Moore were right, then the State of Alabama would also possess the power to prohibit freedom of speech and the press, to outlaw peaceful public assemblies, to forbid people from petitioning the government, and to establish its own official state church and banish all other religious practices from Alabama.
One of the three things Thomas Jefferson wanted to be remembered for on his tombstone was his authorship of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. This state law abolished all official government-sanctioned churches and their power to tax those of other faiths.
“I care not whether a man worships one god or 100,” said Jefferson. “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But Alabamans have been paying taxes to illuminate, shelter and guard a granite shrine on which appears Mr. Moore’s chosen translation (for God wrote them in Hebrew, not English) of one of the Bible’s two differing versions of the 10 Commandments.
Does this constitute an “establishment of religion,” or are the 10 Commandments a statement of universal religious belief? All faiths probably would concur in saying “Thou Shalt Not Kill (more accurately translated “Murder”)?”
But alas, the Commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy is unique to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Buddhism, Hinduism and other major faiths have no Sabbath at all. The 10 Commandments, therefore, are not universal. Enshrining them indeed does have the effect of establishing the Western religious tradition above all others in our officially secular and egalitarian, pragmatically pluralistic society.
As a commonsense answer, imagine that Mr. Moore had walked into the Alabama Supreme Court one morning and found himself facing a 5,300 pound granite monument inscribed only with the “Five Pillars of Islam” credited to the Koran and making no mention of Judaism or Christianity. Would he regard this shrine on government property as an “establishment of religion?”
Leftists cheered wildly as the moral strictures of the 10 Commandments were removed from the Alabama Supreme Court. It is easy to see why. If people decided to believe in those rules – especially the Commandments that prohibit stealing and the coveting of your neighbors’ property – the Democratic Party, with its endless use of envy and class warfare and discriminatory demands to “tax the rich,” would vanish in the twinkling of an eye. The Left is a diseased ideology of darkness that cannot survive in the pure light of moral clarity.
But in Alabama those same Leftists see nothing wrong, and instead embrace, another merger of Church and State. Governor Bob Riley, nominally a Republican conservative, is seeking a $1.2 billion tax increase targeted almost entirely on the wealthy and on business. Why? Because, says Riley, of his Christian faith.
“I’ve spent a lot of time reading the New Testament,” says Riley, “and it has three philosophies: Love God, love each other, and take care of the least among you.”
Riley says he wants to raise taxes on the rich so that he can reduce the taxes and increase the government benefits of the poor. And to nobody’s surprise, the same Leftists who demanded removal of the 10 Commandments are wildly cheering Gov. Riley, despite his naked use of religion to shape government policy.
“What Bob Riley is doing is acting like a Christian,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, editor of the Sojourners, a magazine so far to the Left politically that it cannot tell the difference between the cross and the hammer & sickle.
One of Gov. Riley’s strongest supporters is Democratic presidential hopeful Rev. Al Sharpton, a Leftist demagogue and anti-Semite notorious for not paying the taxes and other debts he owes.
“It is rare I would support an initiative by a Republican governor,” said Sharpton. “But I think the concerns of education – of children – go far and above partisan concerns.”
Sharpton aims to rally Alabama voters, who can cast ballots for or against Riley’s proposed tax increase on September 9th. The measure is supported by the state Democratic Party and opposed by the state Republican Party, of which Riley claims to be a member.
The head of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, has said he wants “to make Riley the poster child for Republicans who go bad. I want every conservative Republican elected official in the United States to watch Bob Riley lose and learn from it.”
As of August 24, polls showed the tax increase proposal losing by about 20 points.
According to Neal Peirce of the Washington Post, among the groups “largely opposed” to what would be a tax hike eight times bigger than any in Alabama history are African-Americans. They have learned to distrust those who utter any of the three classic lies: (1) The check is in the mail; (2) I will respect you in the morning; and (3) We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.
Is Governor Bob Riley genuinely representing Jesus or secretly serving Satan? For the answer, open your Bible to Matthew 6:1-5. Does Bob Riley have a sinister motive and secret identity? For the answer, open your Bible to John 12:3-6 to learn everything that any Christian needs to know about liberal welfare policy and who those like Bob Riley really are.
As a general rule of thumb, Leftists have no objection to mixing Church and State when it serves the Leftist agenda or when the religion is not Judaism or Christianity. Have the Governor of Alabama demand higher taxes in the name of Jesus? Terrific. Have taxpayers subsidize “art” made by submerging a crucifix in urine? No problem. Celebrate the pagan witchcraft holiday of Halloween in public schools where Passover and Christmas are verboten? Hey, trick or treat.
Let Democratic candidates campaign from the pulpits of tax-exempt black churches and gather money using the churches’ collection plates? Why not? Bill Clinton only removed the tax exemption from a Christian church that criticized him. Come to think of it, do we have separation of Church and State when the Internal Revenue Service can decide who is or is not a valid church worthy of tax exemption? This is a life or death quesiton, because, as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall long ago (in McCulloch vs. Maryland) ruled, “The power to tax involves the power to destroy.”
Spend tax dollars to erect images of the pagan Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, as the California legislature just did despite a $38 billion budget deficit? The ACLU sees nothing wrong with that.
Which reminds me, why is the ACLU not screaming its head off about Church-State separation in the California legislature? On the verge of passage there is a freaky piece of legislation nicknamed the “Sacred Sites Bill.” If enacted into law, Senate Bill SB 18 would create a powerful new entity called the Native American Heritage Commission, controlled by Native Americans, with the power to regulate development on any land that includes OR IS CLOSE TO an Indian “sacred site.”
The proposed law is amazingly vague. What is a “sacred site?” It is whatever Indians say it is. What is “close to?” That is for the courts to decide. What does this Commission’s regulatory power mean? It might mean that if you live miles away from an Indian “sacred site,” on or off a reservation, you could be required to forego building anything on your property. Or you might be required to pay Indians whatever amount of money they asked in order to obtain their permission to build on your own property.
Now imagine that a similar law were enacted empowering the Roman Catholic Church. If you own property within, say, five miles of such a church or church graveyard or shrine or convent or monastery, imagine being required to get written permission from the church before you could build on your property.
The ACLU would go berserk at such a law, and rightly so. Why should the Roman Catholic Church, merely by existing in your vicinity, have such power over your property? Why should it be empowered to invent “sacred sites” willy-nilly, merely by proclaiming that a saint had walked down your street or a miracle had occurred in your driveway? And why is such state-like power being given to one particular church? Is this not tantamount to creating “an establishment of religion?”
The same concerns should apply to Native American religions and their theologically-based concepts of “sacredness.” What if an Indian medicine man says he saw the tribe’s mythological “Trickster” crossing your land in the form of a coyote, thereby turning your property into their “sacred site?” With this potential new law in place, that might be enough to obliterate your property rights.
Why should one family of religions be given such state-like power, as if they were a city zoning or building department from whom official permits must be obtained? And why is such power being granted only to these churches to the exclusion of all others?
The answer to this last question, of course, is the idolatrous object on which we inscribe the words “In God We Trust” (“All Others Pay Cash”) – money.
The casino-operating Indian tribes of California have given vast amounts of money to key politicians. A single tribe days ago, e.g., gave more than $300,000 to Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to help him retain the California governor’s office for the Democratic Party in the upcoming October 7 recall election.
Thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s property. Thus read the 10 Commandments. But those are the rules the Left is having removed by force from our society. The new laws are that stealing is fine as long as it is done via the taxing and redistribution powers of the government. And grabbing your neighbor’s property is fine as long as it is done in the name of environmental laws, endangered species laws, or what will soon be the “Sacred Site” law in California….with something similar coming soon to an all-powerful state near you.
And in such cases, the ACLU thinks it is fine and dandy if you tax in the name of Jesus or de facto seize your neighbor’s property in the name of Quetzalcoatl….just as long as taxes and government keep getting bigger, and private property rights continue to shrink.
When Thomas Jefferson penned the words “separation of Church and State” in a private letter to a friend, he saw it as part of a free America in which the State would always remain small and unobtrusive.
Today’s ACLU lawyers and Democratic politics, by contrast, are usually socialists who want the state to occupy and dominate every inch of the public square. That, of course, will leave no place in the public square for any Church – except those that preach in support of the socialist agenda.
And thus, in the end, we will come full circle and transform the Church back into a governmental “establishment of religion,” the ideological handmaiden of the ruling elite. We will retrograde into what America’s founders tried to abolish – an official Church again in the service of, and corrupted by, the State.