An Honest Look at the Ten Commandments Issue

If I believed passionately that everyone would be better off for reading the Ten Commandments, what would I do?…

If I believed passionately that everyone would be better off for reading the Ten Commandments, what would I do?

I would probably start by distributing leaflets containing the Ten Commandments everywhere I could–on street corners, at the grocery store, at sports and entertainment events.

I might ask local churches and individuals to erect replicas of the Ten Commandments on their lawns or porches.

I would ask local newspapers to reproduce them; if the papers would not do so as a contribution, I would try to raise the money to buy a paid advertisement, which would stress the importance of the Commandments to the development of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

I would certainly use the Internet to find others who agreed with me on the importance of widespread distribution, and would engage them in my project.

I might sell tee shirts printed with the Commandments at cost, or below if I could afford that or could raise the money.

I would find a group of young people to form a Ten Commandments Club, to spread the word.

I might hold a rally, and bring in people to speak about the importance of the Ten Commandments in their lives.

And of course, I would do my very best to live up to the principles of the Commandments and other great religious precepts. ( "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" comes to mind; there are many others.)

Every single one of these methods for promoting the Ten Commandments and righteous behavior is constitutionally protected.

If, however, all I really want is for my government to send a message that my particular beliefs are the proper ones, I won’t bother with any of these time-consuming activities. I will petition my local county officials to post the Commandments so that everyone visiting a public building will know who really belongs in this country and who doesn’t. It will be important that my document appear on government-owned buildings, so it will be very clear what my government approves–and by implication, what (and who) it doesn’t.

Unfortunately for those who wish to be more equal than others, the First Amendment forbids government from issuing such endorsements, just as it would forbid the passage of laws requiring the posting of the Bill of Rights in all churches. The First Amendment protects our right to advocate in the public square, but it forbids us to enlist the help of the 800 pound gorilla– the public sector.

Recently, the Center for the Constitution issued the results of a poll under the headline "Americans revere the Constitution. They just don’t know what’s in it."