In Contempt of Court
It is grievous enough to watch the many times when the Ten Commandments are stripped from the public arena, whether it be in Montgomery, Alabama, Cobb County, Georgia or Kentucky Public Schools rooms. It is even more grievous to know that the Supreme Court, the authority upon which all these actions are based, is more lenient toward pornography than it is toward the Ten Commandments.
Miller v. U.S. is a Supreme Court obscenity case from 1973. In that case the Justices defined obscenity in three part test. The first, “whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest…” The second part deals with state laws and does not concern us here. The third part is, “…whether the work taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” The phrase used twice in this definition, “the work taken as a whole” is the leniency shown toward the pornographer. Even though a publication centers on pornography, the publishers throw in articles on politics, or sports or a short story and Presto! Its legal, because the whole work is considered.
But when it comes to the Ten Commandments, no such leniency is shown. The Supreme Court case that gives the Federal Government the authority to strip the Ten Commandments from government buildings is Stone v. Graham, a 1980 case. This case found that a copy of the Ten Commandments, required by Kentucky law to be posted in public schools, was unconstitutional. According to Stone v. Graham, Kentucky law required that underneath the plaque of the Ten Commandments would be a note saying the, “secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of the United States.” But the Justices threw it out. Why? “The Ten Commandments” they said, “are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact. The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, such as honoring one’s parents, killing or murder, adultery, stealing, false witness and covetousness…Rather, the first part of the Commandments concern 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.”
Trash such as Hustler and Playboy is allowed because, “you are not to consider detached or separate portions in reaching a conclusion,” and the publication must, “be taken as a whole.” Yet the Ten Commandments are not allowed because, “they do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters,” but also, “concerns the religious duties of believers.”
This of course is the contemporary interpretation of our Constitution regarding the Ten Commandments, but the majority of our Founding Fathers had a different view of the Commandments. For example, James Madison, fourth President of the United States and called the Father of our Constitution, fought hard for religious freedom. In 1785 Madison was a co-sponsor of a bill written by Thomas Jefferson called “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom”. Also, that same year, Madison presented to the Virginia legislature, “A Bill for Punishing …Sabbath Breakers”, that required a ten shilling fine for each offence. Another example is Oliver Ellsworth. He was a U.S. Senator, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and future Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Oliver Ellsworth believed that civil government, “…has a right to prohibit and punish gross immoralities…because the open practice of these is of evil example and detriment. For this reason I heartily approve of our laws against drunkenness, profane swearing, blasphemy, and professed atheism.”
These Founding Fathers, who participated in amending the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, including the First Amendment are 180 degrees apart from the present majority in the Supreme Court. James Madison and Oliver Ellsworth didn’t feel legislating some of the Ten Commandments violated the First Amendment, but the present majority of the Court believe we can’t even look at them within the public schools and within the Court House without violating the First Amendment.This is not our Founders America, neither is it the America I was born into.
An interesting twist about this is when the Bill of Rights were first drawn up, before they could be amended to the Constitution, the differences between the House version and the Senate version had to be worked out. James Madison, at the time a U.S. House of Representative member led the House delegation and Oliver Ellsworth led the Senate delegation. What is so amazing about this is these men had such attitudes towards the Ten Commandments, even including them in our laws and yet they did not feel they were in violation of the First Amendment which both men had a hand in framing. If they were alive today and exhibited such godliness toward the Commandments, they would be considered unqualified for the duties they performed with integrity in the infancy of our nation.