Constitution Contains Not One Commandment

The Constitution is not Biblical

There are no democratically elected leaders in the Christian Bible. I know – it’s shocking. But, if you catch the rhetoric pertaining to the US Constitution, you’d think the Ten Commandments are its bullet points. They’re not. The whole idea of a representative democracy (a Greek word) comes from Ancient (think then-solvent) Greece. The leaders in the Bible were all kings or tyrants and the Bill of Rights is nowhere in the New or Old Testaments.

Simply: Democracy isn’t biblical. But neither is the combustible engine, CAT scans or GPS – it doesn’t make them any less awesome.

So when fly-by-night pontificators, the loudest being the scholarly Sarah Palin, claim this country’s laws are ordained by God via the bible, she needs to show her work – because freedom of the press, due process and freedom of speech are not through-lines in biblical teachings. Nor is the citizenry bearing arms.

“Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant – they’re quite clear – that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments,” Palin sputtered on FNC earlier this month.

Evidently, just because it’s “protected speech” doesn’t make it “factual.”

When you break it down, three of the Ten Commandments are universal laws with zero controversy (do not murder, do not steal, no false witnessing). The teetering point to make half of the most widely accepted version of the Ten Commandments actual laws have been fought over by the states. Blue Laws, laws prohibiting things on Sundays based on the Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, are still on the books in some places. They’re some of the sillier laws in the country. In Texas you couldn’t buy anything on Sundays you could do work with. So hardware stores had to put blue price tags on things like hammers up until the law was overturned in 1984. There are still places where you can’t buy a car on “the day of rest.” Let alone booze.

Talk about over-reaching government dictating what businesses can do.

Other attempts to pass laws to abolish cursing, an interpretation of using the Lord’s name in vain, have been tried. The most amusing one was by the real Victorian-era sheriff of Deadwood, South Dakota, Seth Bullock. He cracked down on cussing in his rowdy mining camp only to have the most curse-laden HBO show in the history of television about it 140 years later. Then adultery is still illegal in some states while the Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws in 2003.

So to recap: Three of the Ten Commandments are covered by federal laws and three are laws in some states. But the other four are nowhere to be found in US law.

Which from a statistical stance sums up the debate about religion and our government: a third of people think this is and should be a Christian nation, others waffle yet most think it’s not a good idea in practice.

In fact, none of the Ten Commandments are in the US Constitution. The Constitution is the charter of the government outlining the rights of the people and the limits of government. Comparing the two is like apples to a red herring.

“The Constitutional protections are on what they [the Founders] thought was right and wrong, and what they thought was right and wrong is based on the Ten Commandments,” claimed Bill O’Reilly on his cable show.

Tina Dupuy

The question is: do we really want to live in a country that makes not honoring your mother and father a crime? Is it wise to have a law mandating you can’t have any other gods or make false idols or covet your neighbor’s spouse? The Founding Fathers (ahem) clearly thought it wasn’t.

Why, if you want America to be more religious, do you need to co-opt history to accomplish it? Have the courage to stand up for your convictions without creating fiction about the founding documents. I don’t agree with the Founding Fathers about everything (slavery, women’s rights, native peoples rights). But that doesn’t make the US Constitution, in my eyes, any less of an amazing feat for humanity.

So go ahead and stand up for your faith and be proud. But lying for it is, ya know, after all – bearing false witness.

Tina Dupuy

Published by the LA Progressive on May 27, 2010
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About Tina Dupuy

Tina is a nationally syndicated political columnist, investigative journalist, award-winning writer, stand-up comic and wedge issue fan.

Comments

  1. Typo correction to the longer entry above: “to believe or not believe as they see FIT.”

  2. Thomas, I hate to bring this up, but the Declaration of Independence is not a governing document. It was a political statement signed before there was a Constitution and Bill of Rights. In fact the US at first had the Articles of Confederation as its guiding governing document, not the Constitution. The Articles, like the Constitution, made no mention of any God, Creator or other deity of any sort. If one reads into the history one would know that a secular state was organized in spite of religion. Whose religion would have been supreme? Many of the people who had fled Europe did so because of state religious persecution and oppression and didn’t care to see any state religion that could be forced upon them. Think about it: if our country had a state religion would it be Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Roman Catholic Christian, Baptist, Lutheran, [I am aware some of these are sects but sects were around and some would no doubt have enjoyed being the state religion, it gives a lot of power.] etc? It should be noted that all the major religions of the time had at least some people in the colonies. No, none of the above or any other is the answer that prevailed and that is why we ended up with a secular democracy that allows people to believe or not believe as they see fir. My family were some kind of Protestants when they came to this land in the first decade of the 1700s and they had fought against the imposition of the Church of England in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. They fought in the War of Independence and do you think for a minute that they would have peacefully accepted any state religion? Nor would the others who had been pushed down by King, State and Church.
    FYI: providence: the care and control of God or of a force that is not human in origin. [Cambridge Dict. of American English] Therefore, natures God or divine providence does not specifically refer to any God — it is just as well evolution or the four fierce winds. Nature’s God in particular sounds like animism or pantheism, not to religion.

    • it is a founding document used as a model on which to build the rest of the documents. You do remember that the constitution alone was not passing and the first ten amendments had to be added to make it so. some states approved with a backout clause is the ten did not pass. The constitution is somewhat a document of limits whereas the amendments were a document of rights. The declaration was also filled with our rights, as is the building holding our highest court, it has the commandents carved right into the building. That must stand for something?

  3. I hate to bring this up, but in the Declaration of Independence, the first American legal document, and one of our most prized documents, it mentions God. “Nature’s God” and “with firm reliance on Divine Providence” are both quotes from this document. While there are no direct commandments in the Constitution, saying that God didn’t play a part in the “Framing” is untrue.

  4. Since we are taking people to task for getting wrong where ideas come from, let’s not compound their errors. And let’s accept good ideas from whatever source, and whatever the historical accidents and facts might be.

    (1) The leaders in the Hebrew Bible were NOT all kings or tyrants. Indeed, the Judges and prophet Samuel were quite the opposite. They led by example. Samuel’s warning against instituting the needless tyranny of a king is perhaps history’s first such warning. The Bible – and in particular the accounts of the Exodus and the preachings of the prophets – are indeed the prime source of the sentiment that ‘Resistance to tyranny is obediance to God.’ (By comparison, even free-thinking Greek philosophers like Socrates endorsed the concept of the city-state as supreme.)

    (2) The ‘whole idea of a representative democracy’ does NOT come just from ancient Greece. The republican version we have in this country is more typical of ancient Rome, not Athens.

    (3) ‘Representative democracy’ comes in more than one version. Athens (at its heyday) gave us a superior form (which we would badly profit from, but people are ignorant of) in which many many people – not just a small elected or appointed elite – take manageable turns in being the representatives in deliberative decision-making.

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