Commandments Confusion: Louisiana Lawmakers Get Decalogue Fever

Louisiana is a perfectly nice state with a lot of good people in it – but some of the state’s legislators and public officials don’t seem to get it when it comes to separation of church and state.

The Pelican State has repeatedly passed laws that mix religion and government. Over the years, several laws have been passed designed to promote creationism – the most recent effort being a so-called “science education act” that attempts to bring anti-evolutionism in through schoolhouse backdoors.

Certain towns and parishes are known for injecting Christianity into school events. In Bastrop, a high school student who protested school-sponsored graduation prayers last month literally had to leave town. In addition, Gov. Bobby Jindal is infamous for using a taxpayer-funded helicopter to visit churches.

And now the state is considering posting the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the capitol in Baton Rouge.

The Louisiana House of Representatives has already approved the bill (unanimously). Its sponsor, state Rep. Patrick Williams (D-Shreveport) insists his measure has no religious intent.

“The significance is historical,” Williams told Reuters. “Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments. In fact, without them, a lot of our laws would not exist.”

Come on. The Ten Commandments, according to the Old Testament, were delivered to Moses personally by God on Mount Sinai. God had inscribed the two stone tablets with his own finger. He then handed the tablets to Moses and warned him that if the people did not obey this code, there would be consequences.

Several of the commandments regulate religious behavior.  They warn against worshiping false gods and ban graven images. They caution against taking God’s name in vain. They admonish people to keep the Sabbath.

It sure sounds like a religious document to me.

As for the claim that the Commandments are the source of our laws, that allegation is handily debunked by even a cursory look at history. Laws against murder, theft, lying, etc. have existed since people began living together in an organized fashion. Societies can’t function if these laws aren’t enforced. That’s why they’re common in all religious and ethical systems.

We often hear the claim that the Founding Fathers based American law on the Ten Commandments. Religious Right activists say it a lot – but no historical evidence backs up the claim. It’s time to put this myth to rest.

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