Thursday, March 20, 2008


Why we have to keep close watch...

United States ConstitutiionI’m not sure whether to thank Ray, a frequent commenter here, for pointing this out to me — he gets the hat tip, anyway — but a week ago today, the biggest idiot in the US Senate, former presidential candidate Sam Brownback, and the biggest liar in the US Senate, Joseph “I’m an Independent, wink-wink” Lieberman introduced a resolution for “Ten Commandments Weekend”. Here’s Senator Brownback’s press release:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) today introduced the Ten Commandments Weekend Resolution, which would designate the first weekend of May 2008 as Ten Commandments Weekend.

“It is important for Americans to remember the importance the Ten Commandments have in our nation,” said Brownback. “The Ten Commandments are the cornerstone to the faith of millions of Americans of many faith traditions, and are a cornerstone to a fair and just society. We as a nation should take a weekend to reflect on the impact the Ten Commandments have had on the foundation of America’s national life.”

Ray wondered, and I wonder, whether they don’t see that they have more important — and more useful — things to do. But that’s rather beside the point, really. I’m sure we all see the first-amendment issue here (though I suppose it’s a “resolution”, not a “law”, so one could argue that point, even if lamely). I’ll remind everyone that in 2003, a federal court ordered the removal from an Alabama state courthouse of a monument to the ten commandments, saying that it violates the first amendment’s establishment clause.

The full resolution[1] actually goes beyond establishing one weekend in 2008. It’s a three part thing that also establishes the ten commandments “as a significant aspect of the national life of the United States” and actively encourages more garbage along these lines.

The resolution has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and one can hope it will die there. One can help affect that by contacting the committee members, as appropriate to one’s constituency; the chair is Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and the members are Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Biden (D-DE), Kohl (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Feingold (D-WI), Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Cardin (D-MD), Whitehouse (D-RI), Specter (R-PA), Hatch (R-UT), Grassley (R-IA), Kyl (R-AZ), Sessions (R-AL), Graham (R-SC), Cornyn (R-TX), and Coburn (R-OK). Oh, and Brownback (R-KS). But I don’t think he’ll be swayed by your cards and letters.

I haven’t the slightest thought that Senator Schumer will support this resolution, but I’ve written him anyway.

The other thing is that in searching Thomas, the search engine of the Library of Congress, I found that this isn’t the only ten-commandments–related piece of crap legislation that’s gone around recently. The House of Representatives has been “busy” too:

  1. H. CON. RES. 12, January 4, 2007, introduced by Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA):
    Requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in the United States Capitol.

    Whereas the Ten Commandments have had a significant impact on the development of the fundamental legal principles of Western Civilization; and

    Whereas the Ten Commandments set forth a code of moral conduct, observance of which is widely acknowledged to promote respect for our system of laws and the good of society: Now, therefore, be it

        Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress—

    1. recognizes that the Ten Commandments are a declaration of the fundamental principles that are the cornerstone of a fair and just society; and
    2. directs that a copy of the Ten Commandments be prominently displayed in the United States Capitol at such place and in such manner as the Architect of the Capitol shall designate.
  2. H. RES. 598, August 1, 2007, introduced by Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) and 24 other representatives:

    Whereas the Ten Commandments Commission’s platform is a call echoed throughout creation for a true expression of love, harmony, and reconciliation among all nations, ethnic communities, and genders through education about the moral standard as given by our Loving Creator and rededication to those standards;


    Whereas the Ten Commandments Commission reaches out to proclaim the need to heal the wounds of history through strategic and practical objectives, proactive love, and obedience to the commands of God;


        Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

    1. supports the goals of the Ten Commandments Commission and recognizes the vital contributions of America’s tens of thousands of spiritual leaders, churches, synagogues, fellowships, ministries, and organizations participating in Ten Commandments Weekend; and
    2. congratulates the Ten Commandments Commission and all supporting spiritual leaders, churches, synagogues, fellowships, ministries, and organizations for their key role in promoting and ensuring recognition of the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of Western law.
  3. H. RES. 888, December 18, 2007, introduced by Representative J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) and 23 other representatives (including Mr Akin and others from H. RES. 598):

    Whereas the first week in May each year would be an appropriate week to designate as `American Religious History Week’: Now, therefore, be it

        Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives——

    1. affirms the rich spiritual and diverse religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history, including up to the current day;
    2. recognizes that the religious foundations of faith on which America was built are critical underpinnings of our Nation’s most valuable institutions and form the inseparable foundation for America’s representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures;
    3. rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s public buildings and educational resources; and
    4. expresses support for designation of a `American Religious History Week’ every year for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.

Come on, folks: what part of “separation of church and state” is hard to understand?

[1] The text of the Brownback/Lieberman resolution, S. RES. 483, 13 March 2008:

Recognizing the first weekend of May 2008 as ‘Ten Commandments Weekend’.

Whereas the Ten Commandments are precepts foundational to the faith of millions of Americans;

Whereas the Ten Commandments are a declaration of fundamental principles for a fair and just society;

Whereas, from the founding of the United States, the Ten Commandments have been part of America’s basic cultural fabric;

Whereas the national hero and first President, George Washington, proclaimed in his first inaugural address in 1789: ‘[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and the happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.’;

Whereas one of the great leaders of the United States, President John Quincy Adams, declared in a letter to his son, ‘The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code . . . [many] were of universal application—laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which ever professed any code of laws.’;

Whereas President Harry S. Truman affirmed, ‘The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days. If we don’t have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally wind up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the state.’;

Whereas, in addition to being understood as an elemental source for American law, the Ten Commandments have become a recognized symbol of law in our Nation’s culture;

Whereas a marble relief portrait of Moses, the Hebrew prophet and bearer of the Ten Commandments , is located prominently in the United States Capitol over the gallery doors of the chamber of the House of Representatives in honor of his work in establishing the principles that underlie American law;

Whereas images of the Ten Commandments are prominently displayed in many Federal buildings, including the United States Supreme Court, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress; and

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.


Jim Fenton said...

How about, "Bill of Rights Weekend" instead?

Maggie said...

I both emailed and called Senator Kennedy. Usually when you call they take your name, this guy acted like I was crazy -- I don't think he'd heard of it. I'm glad I sent the email, too.