Georgia, The Ten Commandments and Legal Loopholes

“What would Jesus do?” – Bracelets, bumper stickers and T-Shirts everywhere 

When one thinks about the core values of Christianity, the things that should come to mind are honesty, integrity and forthrightness. When one looks at the way some who represent Christianity, the things that actually come to mind are dishonesty, a lack of integrity and behavior that closely resembles the Pharisees, which – if I remember correctly – the character that is portrayed in the bible as Jesus had such a disdain for that the words which are attributed to him call this group vipers, whitewashed tombs and a few other choice phrases.

Christians Are Denied Nothing… 

The United States is a nation with a lot of Christians, but our government is secular. The  First Amendment allows the same rights and privileges to all citizens, and for very good reasons. Christians, atheists, and the extremely wide and diverse belief systems of other United States Citizens are not prevented from worshiping their deities (or from not worshiping any), and the government sets no requirements as to means, mode and method of worship – as long as no civil laws are broken, laws that pertain to all citizens, religious and non-religious.

As well, nobody is prevented from voicing his or her beliefs, proselytizing or evangelizing in the public square. The prevalence of street preachers, student-led religious groups and religious events that represent all belief systems, as well as non-believer events, in public parks and other venues is proof of the guarantee of freedom for and from religion within the confines of the First Amendment.

Those like myself do not seek to eliminate the right for individuals to express their beliefs. What we seek to do is to bring our government to what it was founded as, neutral with respect to personal ideologies. This is why we work so hard to remove all vestiges of religion from government – because our government is by and for the people, and not all the people are Christian. A truly representative government cannot exist if it panders to one group over another. When a government ceases to represent all citizens and enact laws and regulations that favor a religion, it has started down the path to theocracy.

Legal Loopholes…

One needs to examine one of the main mantras of Christianity, which is the petition to God for redress of grievances (prayer), and waiting for an answer – be it yes, no or wait. As well, their own doctrines speak volumes about involvement in government. I will not bore you again with long lists of scripture and exegesis on this subject.

If you are a Christian reading this, you should know what your god requires of you in matters of state and you should be ashamed of yourselves for using or supporting those Christians who choose to use the same methods that the Pharisees used.

It is decidedly un-Christian to use legal loopholes in the attempt to subvert any government that has been founded as representative, and that holds the citizenry as sovereign. God may be sovereign over the lives of individual Christians, but the United States Constitution does not give their god such a designation.

The use of legislation to bring into law any precept that favors religion over the individual rights of the citizen is not only an abrogation of individual civil rights, but violates the biblical precept of political neutrality as referenced by the refusal of the character portrayed as Jesus to rule the kingdoms of the world.

In fact, the bible reads that Jesus even refused to be made king of Israel because the he stated that earthly kingdoms are part of the world, and the world is allegedly ruled by the character portrayed as “Satan.

The bible reads that Christians are subjects of a kingdom that is “not of this world,” and are to obey laws of the governments where they live. This includes not just the payment of taxes of the country in which they reside, but the active involvement in the legislative process for the sole purpose of creating a theocratic form of government, which includes the representation of said government as Christian and the installation of solely Christian artifacts, idols and graphical representations of their faith.

Georgia and the Ten Commandments…

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper,

A copy of the Ten Commandments could be posted in all Georgia government buildings and schools under a bill passed unanimously Tuesday by House lawmakers. 

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, is seeking to expand a 2006 law that already permits the passage from the Old Testament to be displayed in judicial buildings and courthouses when accompanied by other historical documents deemed to have influenced the U.S. legal system. 

Georgia lawmakers passed that original law one year after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 struck down Commandment displays in two Kentucky courthouses, ruling they appeared to be a government endorsement of Christianity. 

His latest bill passed by a vote of 161-0 and now heads to the state Senate. It has few vocal opponents and a strong chance of passing in the Legislature. 

“If you look at the law of the United States, we have a lot of laws that are based on the Christian and Jewish Ten Commandments, so I felt that was a very appropriate item to be put in there,” Benton said. 

His opponents argue the bill would allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in school buildings, an area where courts typically draw a sharper line in favor of the secular in disputes over church and state.

This is an issue that I addressed last year with the Georgia Supreme Court. I wrote a letter to both the Georgia Supreme Court and Governor Deal, outlining why this was unconstitutional. The letter was ignored, which is par for the course here in Georgia – as with many other bible-belt states. The issue has not been dropped, and the latest decision by the state of Georgia regarding this matter will also be addressed.

Here is an image of the letter, more commentary following…

 

More Commentary…

Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said, in response to the passage of the bill,

“There’s a faulty premise there and that is that The Ten Commandments has anything to do with the civil laws of the United States — it does not, of course. We don’t make it illegal to dishonor our mother and father. We don’t have blasphemy laws.” 

Barry Lynn also predicted that these displays can provoke a lawsuit. According to Americans United, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, South Dakota and Oklahoma also passed resolutions or laws promoting the display of the Commandments in public buildings.

Barry says,

“This is the kind of thing that raises a gigantic red flag, and on that flag are the words, ‘Sue us,’”

Other Infringements… 

The presentation and display of the Ten Commandments is not the only issue here in Georgia and other states. It’s also the infringement on women and their right to choose, various blue laws that restrict the sale of alcohol during the times of Christian worship services, the teaching of religious myths such as creationism in the place of real science in our education system, the allowance of religious groups that purpose to proselytize to work with and within our school systems and a plethora of other legislation that is pending or has been enacted into law that favors Christianity instead of the sovereign rights of the individual United States citizen.

To be United States citizen means that we, each, should not be compelled to acquiesce to religious laws, statutes or the concept that any one religious group has regarding morality.

We should not, as individuals, be subject to the tyranny of the majority, nor should we be subject to the penalties and punishments as outlined by any religious group. Christianity or any other religion does not own the consequences of murder, rape, theft and fraud. The aversion to these crimes are the result of our evolution and the development of civilized societies, thus every community – be it a small enclave or a major nation – regardless of religious belief, has laws against these violations. They are not crimes against god, but crimes against humanity, and only secular laws should address these crimes.

The Christian community that seeks to integrate their religion into government is in violation of its own doctrine, and their bible speaks plainly of their efforts to do so.

And they accuse us of worshiping Satan…

  24 comments for “Georgia, The Ten Commandments and Legal Loopholes

  1. February 29, 2012 at 11:41 am

    can Nonbelievers trust governments who are believers themselves….? AOTM….

  2. February 29, 2012 at 11:46 am

    But the Ten Commandments has something about no murder! It’s obviously the basis of all our laws and morals! (Video from NonStampCollector)

  3. February 29, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Republican Jesus is still a tad bit too dark-skinned.

  4. February 29, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    “God may be sovereign over the lives of individual Christians, but the United States Constitution does not give their god such a designation.”—Love that quote. Very well written Al, it is the best of such pieces that I have read in a long while. You touch on so many relevant areas and do so in a calm and rationed manner. It speaks well for all of us–or most of us anyway–I certainly can’t claim to speak for all atheists.

  5. Azuma Hazuki
    March 1, 2012 at 12:59 am

    What these nuts don’t get is that if we didn’t have a secular constitution we’d likely be a Calvinist hellhole. And Santorum ought to be glad we do since he, as a Catholic, is persona non grata to the Protestant majority in the government. Were it not for the secular nature of the US constitution, he’d be lucky not to be a slave or permanent jailbird.

    As an atheist, the last thing I want is an atheist government. I want a secular government. People have the right to be deluded and wrong, so long as they’re not infringing on other peoples’ rights.

  6. TheVirginian
    March 1, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Good article. My only quibble is that the remark on the Tenth Religious Expression is too kind. Two of the three versions list specific properties not to be coveted; these properties include a neighbor’s wife and slaves. We ban slavery and say women are not property but fellow citizens with the right to vote and hold public office. (I say “we” as a society; obviously, lots of rightwing Christians disagree with the latter, and some with the former.) The abridged version that 10 RE enthusiasts like to post are dishonest in that they do not cite the ban on coveting women and slaves as both being property.

  7. Dave The Sandman
    March 1, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Nice article Uncle Al.

    You could always play them at their own game though. As they insist that the 10 Commandments are displayed as the nation was established under supposed Judeo-Christian values then you could insist that other foundational documents relevant to your legal code are equally displayed.

    For example, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1640/1679, the Magna Carta, The Arbroath Declaration…maybe a copy of Edward “The Lawgiver” 1st’s Legal Codex…..

    oh and some pesky references to PAGAN Norse laws.

    You see the right to trial by a jury of peers is something we Brits inherited from DaneLaw, the forerunner of English Common Law, and passed to the US through the colonial period. It is actually now more relevant to US law than English law, as jury trials are much less common in the UK than the US. So lets see a big shout going out to the Odin worshippers in horny hats who gave us trial by jury…..and big slices of our land and property law, our slander and libel laws, etc.

    Ahhhh…but I guess that would be too much book learnin and history for the religulous reich types who get their book learnin off the backs of Cornflakes packets.

    • Dave The Sandman
      March 1, 2012 at 6:48 am

      ahhhh shag….I forgot one. The Bill Of Rights 1689.

      you know… the original one that your Founders used as a template 😉

    • rapiddominance
      March 3, 2012 at 1:35 am

      Great idea!, as this would eliminate (or drastically reduce) the need for wallpaper.

      That is, unless we’re talking about monumental displays; in which case, it would be hard as hell to construct around existing handicap laws. I guess we could employ ski lifts.

  8. Irreverend Bastard
    March 1, 2012 at 7:43 am

    The Ten Commandments?

    I thought that the Old Testament didn’t count any more. Because it certainly doesn’t count when it comes to shellfish and clothes made of mixed fibers.

    So, only the Ten Commandments count. Nothing else. Except that stuff about killing gays. So, don’t murder, but kill the gays, and … can I eat shellfish while I kill the gays?

  9. HumanisticJones
    March 1, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Looks like I need to start paying attention to what’s going on in my home city again. Is there anything we average citizens can do about this (other than vote out our incumbent state reps in the next election)?

  10. pyrobryan
    March 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Excellent letter. Too bad votes are more important to politicians than the law.

  11. Norman Lycan
    March 1, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Mr. Steffani,

    You said: The bible reads that Christians are subjects of a kingdom that is “not of this world,” and are to obey laws of the governments where they live. This includes not just the payment of taxes of the country in which they reside, but the active involvement in the legislative process for the sole purpose of creating a theocratic form of government”

    I think it was something you wrote recently, which I was too lazy to research because I’m not compelled to call you a liar. But, if I remember correctly, I hope I’m right, you said you were some kind of christian minister at some point in your life? If you were, you got some facts correct, the NTest reads pay your taxes, but I challenge you to find a single passage that encourages anyone of the faithful to seek public office or manipulate this world which the NT say is about to disappear. How surprising that your argument lacks a single link or quotation to support your mistatement.

    • March 1, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      I challenge you to find a single passage that encourages anyone of the faithful to seek public office or manipulate this world which the NT say is about to disappear.

      You are correct, I was a Pastor for ten years. A few as a Pentecostal, and the remaining years as a Southern Baptist. I am not sure where you find that I suggested there was a passage that commands the faithful into politics. It is my position that none exists, which is why I continuously ask the faithful to justify their immersion into the political world.

      • March 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

        In other words, he’s accusing you of holding the precisely opposite point-of-view that you hold.

        Add reading comprehension the long list of things theists are not very good at.

        • Norman Lycan
          March 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm

          Mr. Steffani said:

          “It is my position that none exists, which is why I continuously ask the faithful to justify their immersion into the political world.” But, your original statement implied it comes from the NT. But, that’s not a deal breaker. But, if you want to win the world, spin will come back to haunt you with the real thinkers who can help your movement.

          I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and I was a ministerial servant in the congregation at one point. So, that is how I know what the Bible teaches, I have read it cover to cover. Well, I skipped the census in Numbers, but I actually read the geneology in Luke. Boring shit. But, we both escaped the brainwash, and I think that makes us brothers. My only bone of contention with atheists is that one: if a person does not believe in the ancients gods, he’s a club member, regardless of whether he hates Jews or thinks Kennedy was assassinated by aliens. Secondly, that when you rebelled against religion, you adopted an opposit position, rather than rationally arriving at an intellectual center. Adopting proven science, but that which in limbo, in theory, embrace “I DON’T KNOW”. It is the badge of a freethinker.

          NL

    • rapiddominance
      March 3, 2012 at 2:29 am

      Norman AND Al

      I think I’m seeing the problem, too. But I think that the intended interpretation is that christians should NOT be using politics or governmental institutions for religious leverage.

      But then, the tylenol pm is starting to kick in, so . . .

      Good night guys!

  12. F
    March 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Vipers, yes.

    Or as a somewhat religious King’s X would have it, Religious vipers sucking Royal Blood.

  13. rapiddominance
    March 3, 2012 at 2:20 am

    Mr. Stefanelli

    Christians HAVE become the Pharisees. I would even go so far as to say that you were TOO kind. You used the word “some” instead of “many” or “most”.

    Though I believe the last two word choices would have been more accurate, the subtlety of the word “some” invites Christians to look at their reality a little more closely. The average human has a hard enough time seeing and accepting shortcomings in their character. In the presence of perceived aggressor, it almost impossible. If anything, they usually double down and become more of a monster than before.

    I know the deal about the word choice of “some” seems a little on the tedious, micromanagerial side. That’s not what I’m about here. What I am trying to say is that I think both your message and deliver showed accuracy, class, and genuine human concern.

    At the end of it all, the truth is that I doubt my own character more than I doubt yours.

    • Norman Lycan
      March 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      Rapidd said:

      “At the end of it all, the truth is that I doubt my own character more than I doubt yours.”

      Why would you ever do such a thing? People surrendering their minds to someone percieved to possess some special understanding is how religion was created. If you want to be a freethinker, just clean out your mental closet. Have the courage to open the doors to the darkest and scariest corners of your belief, and face it, put it to the test, is it real or just propaganda? When you finish sweeping out the shit, you will realize that it’s not a person you need to support, but an idea. Then support it as best you can. Believe in yourself, not a messiah.

      NL

      • John Morales
        March 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm

        Believe in yourself, not a messiah.

        Advocating belief is all good and proper, but what happened to “agnostism [sic] is the purest form of freethought. The difference between knowledge and wisdom.”?

        (You don’t doubt yourself?)

        • Norman Lycan
          March 4, 2012 at 2:54 am

          I’m not sure what you imply. I don’t advocate anything but proven science as opposed to theory. If atheists want to believe that the universe is an accident, they cannot prove it, but that does not prove the assumption incorrect. What makes agnostism the purest form of freethought is that it believes nothing until it is proven. That gaps of understanding are filled with honesty and humility, called “I don’t know”.

          NL

          • John Morales
            March 4, 2012 at 3:23 am

            Do you think there’s any difference between belief and knowledge?

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