You often hear fundamentalists say that the Ten Commandments should be placed in public spaces because they are the basis of our whole legal system. But how true is this claim? Let`s go through them one by one, and see how true they are.
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make idols.
3. You shall not take the name of your Lord in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.
1. The Bill of Rights guaranteed both free speech and freedom of religion. It would be unconstitutional to infringe on people’s right on what to believe.
2. No law in the US constitution forbids anyone to depict mythical or religious creatures. To do that, it would again, infringe on free speech and freedom of religion.
3. Free speech. No law stops you to curse, or bans the use of any God’s name in any way.
4. Whether Sabbath is on Saturday on Sunday, it is not illegal to work on those days. While the weekend is usually taken off from work, it has nothing to do with sabbath, since a lot of people do go to their jobs all week long, also only on weekends for some of them. No law stops this.
5. While it is polite and decent, honoring your parents is not required by the US law. On the contrary, if the parents are abusive, children are encouraged not to honor their fathers and mothers.
6. This is a good one. Were our laws against murder based on the sixth commandment? Well, it is only common sense that a society would prohibit killing each other for no reason, and it was a part of pretty much all civilizations, including non-Christian ones. The Code of Hammurabi outlaws murder, and it was made hundreds of years before Moses supposedly came down with the tablets.
7. It can be applied in a court of law for a divorce, but you can go ahead and sleep with whoever you want outside marriage, without the law getting involved. It is frowned upon (rightfully so), but there are no laws based on this commandment.
8. Same as with “you shall not murder”, no society wants its citizens to run around and take things from each other by force and without consent. Stealing was prohibited in, again, basically all civilizations, including non-Christian ones. (Code of Hammurabi outlaws stealing, and it was made hundreds of years before Moses supposedly came down with the tablets.)
9. This is a tricky one. Some Christians say that it applies in a court of law only, where lying or bearing false witness is illegal. But that applied to all courts of law, in civilizations that predate Christianity and Moses. Some other Christians say that it applies on our everyday lives, where lying is prohibited. That, again, violates the First Amendment. Except in legal cases, the law won’t come for you if you lie, even if you do it all the time.
10. Being greedy, jealous, or envious, can be considered bad traits and vices, but are in no way illegal in the US.
“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the Common Law.” -Thomas Jefferson