Arizona Capitol Commandments Monumentally Bad Idea

A state/church watchdog is blasting what it calls “the monumentally bad idea” of Arizona State Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa (with cosponsors Rep. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, Steve Court, R-Mesa, and Carl Seel, R-Phoenix) to plant a Ten Commandments monolith in front of the original 1898 Arizona Capitol by 2011.

“The First Commandment alone makes it obvious why the Ten Commandments should not be posted by government bodies. The State of Arizona has no business telling citizens which god they must have, how many gods they must have, or that they ought to have any god at all,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, speaking on behalf of the Foundation’s Arizona membership.

The first four commandments dictate the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord’s name in vain, and observing the sabbath day.

The Madison, Wis.-based Foundation, the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics), noted that Rep. Seel revealed the bill’s impermissible religious purpose, when he said, “Clearly the foundation of our nation is a Judeo-Christian ethic.”

Untrue, says Gaylor. “The Foundation of our nation is the entirely secular U.S. Constitution, whose only references to religion in government are exclusionary. There’s no ‘god,’ much less a reference to the Ten Commandments or to ‘Judeo-Christianity’ in the Constitution.”

Seel incorrectly also claims the Ten Commandments are carved at the Supreme Court, Gaylor charged. Although the Supreme Court includes artwork of both allegorical and actual lawgivers, the frieze image in question shows a numbered but otherwise blank tablet.

“The Ten commandments, contrary to their overblown reputation, are not the last word in ethics,” said Gaylor. “Why did a prohibition of nonviolent adultery rate over a prohibition of rape? In a world full of child abuse, wouldn’t it have been wiser to encourage parents to honor their dependent children?”

“Prohibitions of murder existed long before the Ten Commandments appeared on the scene. It would have been odd if the Israelites didn’t have a similar principle,” added Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, whose 2008 book, Godless, details his migration from evangelical minister to atheist.

“And who cares if your neighbor covets your house? The entire capitalist system of America would come crumbling down if the tenth commandment were taken literally,” he said.

Barker points out that there are not only several contradictory versions of the Ten Commandments in the bible, but that Protestants, Roman Catholics and Jews adhere to varying versions. In the version identified in the bible as “Ten Commandments” (Ex. 34:28), the tenth commandment reads: “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” The Catholic version of the Ten Commandments conveniently leaves out the cautionary references to “graven images.”

Whichever version the State of Arizona would choose would unconstitutionally establish one religion’s version over another, the Foundation said.

And all of the versions would make political outsiders of the 17% of the adult population in Arizona that identifies as nonreligious, rejecting not only the god of the Old Testament, but the very idea of a “divine code.” (See the American Religious Identification Survey 2008.)

See Foundation nontract: “What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandments?”

See Arizona Republic article


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