There are a number of stories these days about getting displays of the Ten Commandments removed from public property because of Establishment Clause violations, like this one from St. Petersburg, and this one, from Alabama.

It’s pretty hard to argue that such displays aren’t infringements of First Amendment rights, as “You shall have no other gods before me” is pretty unambiguous as an endorsement of a particular religious point of view.

The best argument made by defenders of the Ten Commandments monuments is that such displays promote morality in the community, and that apart from any religious content, the government is justified in spending public money on the promotion of civil order. It’s an argument that holds water until you think about it.

1) You would think that the Constitution would provide the basis for the kind of civil order that should be promoted (that’s what its there for). Politicians and judges who try to subvert the Constitution are actually promoting civil disorder.

2) There is really no need to use the exact Biblical text if the only goal is to promote civil morality. Of course, proponents of the monuments would say that they wouldn’t be the same if the texts read like “Hey, let’s not kill each other”. To me that sounds exactly the same, minus the religious arrogance.

3) Proponents are so fixated on these engraved-in-stone monuments that they would prefer to antagonize the public by displaying them on public property than using their energies to praise God. Thus, they are violating the Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image … you shall not bow down to them and serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God”. One might argue that the Second Commandment is simply a prohibition of idol worship, in the literal sense of bowing down before a pagan image. But this is a short-sighted viewpoint. The Second Commandment is a warning against placing any importance in physical objects. When Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore refuses to remove the commandments from his courtroom, he is not only being un-American, and not only abusing the power of the Judiciary, he is transgressing the very commandments he is trying to promulgate.