FFRF co-president’s Ten Commandments op-ed published in multiple Utah papers

Annie Laurie Gaylor headshotFFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor dissects in a recent op-ed published in a number of Utah newspapers a new law that allows the Ten Commandments to be taught in public schools.

“The measure says that the commandments should be added ‘to a list of historical documents and principles that school curricula and activities may include for a thorough study’ to better understand what has shaped the United States,” she writes in a column run in the Standard-Examiner and the Daily Herald. “The Ten Commandments don’t belong in our classrooms, however, much less to be put on the same footing as historic documents such as the Mayflower Compact, formative documents such as the Declaration of Independence or our governing document, the U.S. Constitution.”

Gaylor explains why public school students shouldn’t be subjected to the Ten Commandments:

The commandments had no place in the founding of the United States. The Declaration of Independence introduced the revolutionary notion of basing government on “the consent of the governed,” a concept you won’t find in the bible. The Massachusetts Bay Colony often is wrongly conflated with the founding of the United States, but the former established a Puritan theocracy in a 1630s British colony, while our nation was created nearly 150 years later. We are governed under the godless and entirely secular U.S. Constitution, whose only references to religion are exclusionary, such as that there shall be no religious test for public office.

As for the Ten Commandments themselves, only three have any conceivable relevance to U.S. law. The first four are entirely religious: ordering which god to worship, barring graven images and taking the Lord’s name in vain, and remembering the Sabbath. All four violate our First Amendment. The state of Utah and its public schools have no business telling students which god to have, how many gods to have — or whether to have any gods at all!

The Fifth Commandment, honoring parents, can’t be legislated. Every human society of whatever religious persuasion has adopted laws against killing (the Sixth Commandment) and theft (the Eighth), but in most societies they are wisely not couched in absolutes, but allow for degree and intent.

Then there’s that Seventh Commandment: adultery. Let’s see [bill sponsor state Rep. Michael] Peterson sit down and explain to students how that one is pivotal to U.S. governance. As for the Ninth against “bearing false witness,” the United States already has secular regulations against perjury and false advertising, thank you.

The Tenth Commandment must be condemned as both inane and sexist: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” This commandment, insultingly, is directed at men and treats women as property. “Manservant” and “maidservant” are bible-speak for “slave.” And why on earth would the U.S. government care if you “covet” your neighbor’s house? If we outlawed coveting, our entire free enterprise system would collapse!

Gaylor concludes the piece: “To ignorantly claim that the Ten Commandments had anything to do with U.S. government, which is explicitly separate from religion, is propaganda twisting our nation’s secular heritage and misinforming schoolchildren. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, heeding our own favorite advice — ‘Thou shalt honor thy First Amendment’ — will monitor the fallout from this law and take action as necessary to protect student freedom of conscience.”

You can read the full op-ed here.

This column is part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s initiative to engage with pertinent issues at the national and the state levels and spread the messages of freethought and nontheism to a broader audience.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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