Brownback and Lieberman Introduce ‘Ten Commandments Weekend’ Resolution

I have learned through Diana Hsieh that my Senator, Sam Brownback, apparently has nothing better to do with his time than get together with his buddy Joe Lieberman to introduce a Senate Resolution recognizing “Ten Commandments Weekend”. The resolution states, after several out-of-context quotes, erroneous interpretations, and unfounded historical analysis, that:

Whereas the first weekends of May in 2006 and 2007 were celebrated by many Americans as `Ten Commandments Weekend’ in recognition of the importance of the Ten Commandments in their faith and the history and culture of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate–

(1) recognizes the first weekend of May 2008 as `Ten Commandments Weekend’;

(2) celebrates the Ten Commandments as a significant aspect of the national life of the United States; and

(3) encourages citizens of the United States to reflect on the integral role that the Ten Commandments have played in the life of the Nation.

It’s this sort of imprecision in the law that really irritates me. Note that nowhere in the Senate resolution are we ever informed as to which Ten Commandments we should be celebrating and reflecting upon. Should it be the Catholic Version?

1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

The traditional Protestant Ten Commandments?

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
3. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
4. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.

Or are we supposed to be using the Samaritan version, in which God commanded Moses that all sacrifices should take place at the slopes of Mt. Gerizim? Or a Muslim version, based upon equivalent verses in the Qu’ran? Or, of course, the traditional Jewish version?

Really, this lack of precision is appalling. Why, if the Federal government wants me to reflect on the Ten Commandments, it sure would be nice if they told me which version I was supposed to use! Even the co-sponsors of this bill are no help, since Joe Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew, so he uses one version of the Commandments, and Sam Brownback is Catholic, which means he has another. So c’mon guys–which version is it? After all, it is absolutely the business of Congress to be dictating this sort of religious precept, right?

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Religion, US Politics, , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Richard Gardner says:

    I don’t mind the 10 Commandments. I do get annoyed at folks that self-persecute the whole First Amendment thing, in both directions. The separation of church and state has gotten loony. Government is not Godless, and the Godless are not Government, though both sides rant and rail about the other. And they rail and rail….

    The supposed heathen 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just decided that it is OK to have the 10 Commandments in a public location.

    Brownback on the other hand? He is as much an extremist as (Baghdad) Jim McDermott.

  2. rodney dill says:

    It’s worse than two version, Wikipedia mentions 4 with a variation noted on the fourth.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    The problem isn’t God vs. Godless, Richard. It’s the promotion of one particular religion over another. If you choose one version of the 10 Commandments, you have automatically promoted that religion over the others. Not to mention you’re promoting Judaism/Islam/Christianity, even though there are many, many people in this country who follow different religions. The purpose of the First Amendment is to allow religion and philosophy to flourish, and it does that by keeping the government from taking sides. (Or at least, it should.)

  4. Bithead says:

    Side note on “Thou shalt not Kill”;
    There is argument abuot mistranslation, here. The argument runs that the original ran ‘thou shall not MURDER’ which is another thing outright, and that difference explains much of what we see in the old testiment.

    We now return you to the anti-religious posturing, already in progress.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    We now return you to the anti-religious posturing, already in progress.

    I’m not anti-religious. I anti-government dictating religious thought.

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Senate resolutions are not law and therefore not dictating anything. The Ten Commandments have been part of law and lawmaking for centuries. I see nothing wrong with recognition of our cultural icons such as the stone tablets.

    Check out some of the other senate resolutions and you will see some goofy stuff. It’s no big deal.

    Which version to recognize would be up to the individual.

    Remember the first amendment was more about keeping government out of religion rather than religion out of the government. It worked well for many years and has only recently been taken to the extremes we see today.

  7. Michael says:

    Side note on “Thou shalt not Kill”;
    There is argument abuot mistranslation, here. The argument runs that the original ran ‘thou shall not MURDER’ which is another thing outright, and that difference explains much of what we see in the old testiment.

    It’s more than just argument, I’ve seen bibles that were supposedly the same version (KJV or NIV, I don’t remember) where one used “kill” and the other “murder”. I do believe that the Hebrew word implied some kind of malice or sin (different from killing for defense or justice), so “murder” is probably the more accurate.

  8. Michael says:

    Senate resolutions are not law and therefore not dictating anything.

    The constitution prohibits the establishment or preference of one religion over another or no religion. I think this clearly falls under the preference label.

  9. Michael says:

    Which version to recognize would be up to the individual.

    And what version would an atheist recognize?

    Remember the first amendment was more about keeping government out of religion rather than religion out of the government.

    Sorry, but when you get chocolate in your peanut butter, you also get peanut butter in your chocolate.

  10. Bithead says:

    Like it or not, the culture of this country is based on and remains heavily influenced by the a Judeo-Christian ethic.

    The first duty of any government that wants to survive very long is to respct, nurture and uphold the culture that gave it life.

    Out.

  11. Michael says:

    Like it or not, the culture of this country is based on and remains heavily influenced by the a Judeo-Christian ethic.

    It’s also heavily based on the Constitution of the United States of America.

    The first duty of any government that wants to survive very long is to respct, nurture and uphold the culture that gave it life. Out.

    I thought the first duty of any government was to ensure the safety and prosperity of the people it governs. In a democracy, ensuring the freedom and liberty of it’s people would also be a top concern (and we can argue all day over which is first, liberty or safety). As for America, the culture that gave us life, that sparked the revolution, was not a religion-focused culture. Sure the people were religious, but they were also Anglo-Saxon, that doesn’t mean we should base our government on Anglo-Saxon tradition.

  12. floyd says:

    “”it sure would be nice if they told me which version I was supposed to use!””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Alex, Like so many people in the U.S. today, you’ll just have to remain in suspense![lol]

    Here’s the answer….

    Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another hath fulfilled the law…. Love works no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the FULFILLING OF THE LAW.

  13. Fry says:

    Senate resolutions are not law and therefore not dictating anything. The Ten Commandments have been part of law and lawmaking for centuries.

    The keyword is endorsing. Besides, apart from killing and stealing all of the other commandments are unconstitutional thought crimes. Not only that but the code of Hammurabi had those concepts and other secular laws long before the commandments. So I don’t see how this has been, in any way, a part of our law and lawmaking.

  14. Steve Plunk says:

    I believe the constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion”. Senate resolutions are far from law. The other chamber is not involved and the President doesn’t sign anything.

    An atheist would not have recognize any version. He’s an atheist and it’s not a law.

    I like the chocolate and peanut butter thing but it doesn’t work here. It’s more like waving a chocolate bar around a jar of peanut butter. They aren’t mixing anymore than they were already mixed over the last couple of hundred years.

    Number nine speaks of perjury or bearing of false witness.

    If we have senate resolutions recognizing other cultures and their icons why not have one like this? Is it merely because it has been the dominant religion and therefore handicapped to be more fair? It is because of some fear of a movement to create a national religion? Are we just seeing a mountain made of a molehill?

    There are certainly other influences in our laws but we can’t ignore the Ten or the Judeo-Christian heritage of western culture.

  15. Michael says:

    I believe the constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion”. Senate resolutions are far from law. The other chamber is not involved and the President doesn’t sign anything.

    You’re absolutely right there, it isn’t a violation of the Constitution. However, I still agree with Alex’s premise that it was not something the Senate should be concerning itself, or us, about. And the fact that it was poorly thought out to begin with.

    An atheist would not have recognize any version. He’s an atheist and it’s not a law.

    Which is fine for #1 and #2, but #3 says: “(3) encourages citizens of the United States to reflect on the integral role that the Ten Commandments have played in the life of the Nation.”, now what reflection should an atheist put on the “integral role” that “I am the lord, thy God”, or “Remember the sabbath and keep it holy” played in the life of his country?

    Sure it’s not a law, but it _is_ a resolution of the United States Senate. And I don’t think you’d want to see a Senate Resolution encouraging people to reflect on the evil things done by Chritianity in the past, would you?

    I like the chocolate and peanut butter thing but it doesn’t work here. It’s more like waving a chocolate bar around a jar of peanut butter. They aren’t mixing anymore than they were already mixed over the last couple of hundred years.

    Yes, as long as the chocolate bar doesn’t get in the peanut butter, they are separate, but that’s not what you said. You said:

    Remember the first amendment was more about keeping government out of religion rather than religion out of the government.

    It does work here.

  16. Bithead says:

    It’s also heavily based on the Constitution of the United States of America.

    No.
    Rather, the reverse. The Constitution (as written) is a product of the culture that wrote it. Think; If the constitution, as approved back in the day, ran afoul of the culture of the time, would it have been written, much less approved?

    I thought the first duty of any government was to ensure the safety and prosperity of the people it governs

    Both of these are also products of the culture, and without that foundation, any government efforts are worse than nothing.

  17. Michael says:

    No.
    Rather, the reverse. The Constitution (as written) is a product of the culture that wrote it. Think; If the constitution, as approved back in the day, ran afoul of the culture of the time, would it have been written, much less approved?

    The Constitution was based on a culture of enlightenment philosophy much more than Judeo-Christian theology.

  18. Steve Plunk says:

    Encouraging citizens to understand the history of their country seems okay to me. Ignoring history seems like a more dangerous thing to do. It was but a few decades ago prayer was common in public schools. Should we ignore that religion once had a more prominent place in the public square? I think we should understand and respect how religion, and the Ten Commandments, have been a part of what made us what we are today. Even an atheist can recognize that fact.

    We need a different analogy instead of chocolate peanut butter. I don’t see these wiping off on one another or mixing from this resolution. Government is made up of individuals who can bring religion into government as part of who they are. It has been that way for the life of this country.

  19. floyd says:

    Michael;
    Take two “Tablets” and call us in the morning![grinz]

    to explain the following anecdote…..

    “The potatoes are piled as high as the eye of God, comrade!” declares the farm manager . “Now, now, comrade, you know very well there is no God,” replies the commissar . “Yes,” says the manager, “and there are no potatoes!”

  20. Bithead says:

    The Constitution was based on a culture of enlightenment philosophy much more than Judeo-Christian theology.

    Heh. Nice try, but in many ways, the enlightenment itself would not have occurred but for the cultural influence of Christendom.

  21. Michael says:

    Heh. Nice try, but in many ways, the enlightenment itself would not have occurred but for the cultural influence of Christendom.

    That is a pretty ridiculous claim, since Christendom was around for one and a half thousand years before the Enlightenment brought back pre-Christian ideals like democracy, republicanism and the sciences.

  22. floyd says:

    Micheal;
    Heads-up! Your teachers were stupid!

  23. Michael says:

    Heads-up! Your teachers were stupid!

    I don’t know which is more offensive, you claiming that people you’ve never met are stupid just because I said something you disagree with, or the fact that you think all my knowledge must have come from other people.

  24. Bithead says:

    That is a pretty ridiculous claim, since Christendom was around for one and a half thousand years before the Enlightenment brought back pre-Christian ideals like democracy, republicanism and the sciences.

    So, it took a while.
    this disproves the linkage, or are you just, as I suspect, over-reaching, now?

  25. floyd says:

    Michael;
    Perhaps my post was unwise,for this contingent possibility, I apologize if not repent.

    [1]It was late, and I must say my tolerance for religious bigotry goes down when I’m tired.
    [2]It is of course nice to hear that there is something you don’t know.
    [3]There are millions of stupid people I’ve never met, however you do have a point, perhaps you just didn’t listen to the smart ones.
    [4]It’s not the disagreement, it is the unwarranted vitriol.
    [5]God forbid, that anyone should imply that you had gleaned knowledge from others.

    I should have been better informed by Paul’s first letter to Timothy 6:20-21.
    In other words you may not have been offended if only I had held closer counsel to the very thing you eschew.

  26. Michael says:

    So, it took a while.
    this disproves the linkage, or are you just, as I suspect, over-reaching, now?

    You haven’t proven a linkage, you just made a claim which I pointed to as having no logical reasoning behind it.

  27. Michael says:

    [1]It was late, and I must say my tolerance for religious bigotry goes down when I’m tired.

    There is no religious bigotry on my part, most of my family and friends are christian, and I attend church twice a week on average. I like Christians, and I like Christianity, but I don’t like being treated differently by my government because I’m not one.

    [3]There are millions of stupid people I’ve never met, however you do have a point, perhaps you just didn’t listen to the smart ones.

    Again you assume that because you don’t like what I’m saying, that not only am I wrong, but that I am wrong because the people I listen to are stupid. That’s a pretty big assumption based simply on the fact that you disagree with me.

    [4]It’s not the disagreement, it is the unwarranted vitriol.

    What vitriol? This has been one of the more civilized threads lately.

    [5]God forbid, that anyone should imply that you had gleaned knowledge from others.

    It was more the fact that you didn’t have enough respect to hold me responsible for my claims, you assumed I was just the unwitting follower of someone else.

  28. Bithead says:

    You haven’t proven a linkage

    Nor have you disproven it.

  29. Grewgills says:

    Bit,
    Many of the Enlightenment thinkers were Christian; though Jews, Deists, and Atheists were well represented and the lands most of them came from were traditionally Christian. That is what I take it you are basing your argument of a linkage between Christianity and the Enlightenment upon. What you fail to contend with is that the Enlightenment was in many (most) ways a reaction against the traditions of the Church dominated society in which it was set.

    The Enlightenment was about moving from blind faith to empiricism and scientific skepticism. From blind acceptance of authority (church and king) to acknowledgement of the rights of the governed. This was (and still is) opposed by the more traditionally religious, particularly the Biblical literalists.

    The only 3 of the 10 Commandments enshrined by law in the US and the 4 that are not specifically prohibited by the Constitution (3) or practicality (3) from being enacted into law in the US predate Moses in written form in the region by hundreds of years*. They are universal enough in scope that they have been adopted by most cultures prior to Judeo-Christian contact.

    * Code of Hammurabi, Ur-Nammu’s Code, the Hittite Code of Laws, and the Kassite Code of Laws

  30. Michael says:

    Nor have you disproven it.

    You know perfectly well that it is impossible to prove a negative, so why do you resort to this? Were you hoping that I wasn’t smart enough to know that?