Tennessee and the Ten Commandments

This isn’t precisely about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, but considering that Tennessee very nearly passed a creationism bill this year (see Tennessee 2011 Creationism Bill: It’s Dead) and the thing will likely be revived in the next session of their legislature, we thought it would be interesting to see what else the lawmakers of that state are up to.

As we’ve said before, the good people of Tennessee still revere the memory of William Jennings Bryan. Bryan College, named in his honor and located in Dayton, is a respected and hallowed institution of learning where they are certain they ain’t no kin to no monkeys. Tennessee is the state we’ve called The Land that Time Forgot. We recently wrote about one of their brightest politicians, Jeremy Faison, in Creationist Wisdom #189: The Legislator. The legislature seems to be filled with people like that.

And so, dear reader, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, we bring you Guess what lawmakers want counties to post!, which appears in WorldNetDaily. As you know, WorldNetDaily (WND) is the flamingly creationist, incurably crazed journalistic organ that believes in and enthusiastically promotes every conspiracy theory that ever existed. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

“Throughout America’s rich history,” asserts a Tennessee House Resolution that was passed 98-0 this week, “both the citizenry and their elected officials alike have deeply respected the Ten Commandments, its profound influence on the formation of American legal thought and its fundamental place in the history of law and government.”

Therefore, H.R. 107 declares, “This body hereby urges all Tennessee counties to allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in their respective courthouses.

Isn’t that lovely? Here’s a link to the thing at the Tennessee legislature’s website: HR0107; and this is a 2-page pdf file of the text of HR 0107. Here’s one little tidbit:

WHEREAS, the Founders’ desire to publicly acknowledge God as the source of America’s strength and direction is reflected in many of our founding documents and practices, from the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence to the National Motto and Thanksgiving Day celebrations; and …

Ahem! The Resolution makes no mention of the Constitution, which — unlike the other documents in that little list — is actually the law. Another tidbit:

WHEREAS, throughout America’s rich history, both the citizenry and their elected officials alike have deeply respected the Ten Commandments, its profound influence on the formation of American legal thought, and its fundamental place in the history of law and government as a whole; and …

That’s little more than wishful thinking and sloppy historical revisionism, which we discussed a year ago, here: Is America a “Christian Nation”? In that post, discussing the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, we said:

[T]here was no scriptural basis for concepts like a decentralized federal republic, a two-house legislature, limited government with enumerated powers, representation based on population, checks and balances, prohibiting religious qualifications for holding office, allowing secular oaths, and providing that a man-made Constitution was the supreme law of the land.

Nor, we should add, was there any scriptural basis for authorizing the Patent Office, which is specifically included in the Constitution. But the Tennessee legislature sees things differently. Let’s get to the guts of their resolution:

WHEREAS, it is imperative that these revered tablets continue to grace our public buildings, as reminders to this generation and the next of the vital role the Ten Commandments and its Author have played in shaping our great republic; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, that this body hereby urges all Tennessee counties to allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in their respective courthouses.

Okay, dear reader, now here’s your assignment: Tell us, despite the fact that the Constitution doesn’t mention the Ten Commandments (or the bible, or Christianity), which of the Commandments is the foundation of the nation?

The Commandments against murder, theft, and perjury? All successful societies have had such laws, including those that never heard of our scripture, so let’s move down the list.

The Commandment against keeping other gods? Your Curmudgeon openly respects the Olympian deities — especially Athena and Aphrodite. Would we be locked up for that in Tennessee? We’ll never know, as we don’t plan to go there.

The Commandment against taking the Lord’s name in vain? Good lord, that’s not illegal in America. Father Zeus says “Poo on that!”

The Commandment against coveting your neighbor’s property, including his slaves? Well, yes, maybe that. Okay, they’ve got one. But wait — the Confederacy isn’t our nation. We have a constitutional amendment forbidding slavery. Gasp — we’ve specifically nullified a portion of the Ten Commandments!

Let’s get back to the WND article:

Rep. Todd Watson, author of the resolution, explains in its text, “It is imperative that these revered tablets continue to grace our public buildings, as reminders to this generation and the next of the vital role the Ten Commandments and its Author have played in shaping our great republic.”

Okay. One last excerpt:

H.R. 107 marks a bold fusillade in the ongoing battle over America’s Christian heritage, particularly in the arena of constitutional law. The battle became a national issue nearly a decade ago, when an Alabama judge, Roy Moore, faced pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups to remove a monument that Moore had constructed in the Alabama Supreme Court building because it featured the Ten Commandments. [See Roy Moore.]

[…]

The Tennessee House’s resolution urges its counties to likewise refuse to bow to similar pressure.

In case you’re wondering about the progress of this noble resolution, it passed the House unanimously — 94 to zero, with two others present and not voting. Those two will pay for that on election day! We have no information about what’s happening in the state Senate. So there you are.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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5 responses to “Tennessee and the Ten Commandments

  1. Only 2 are actual laws (no stealing and killing).

    The US has expressly prevent laws from requiring anyone to speak the truth. Journalists, lawyers, prosecutors, even Supreme Court Judges are allowed to lie in their official or professional capacity.

    All of the other are either directly prohibited by the Consitution or are (in effect) mind control in which we are punished for what we think. If the US could punish for what we think, then I would have been on death row decades ago.

    So much for that.

  2. Mr. Monroe

    The enlightenment was simply the self indulgent intellectual rip off of the revolt of Luther and company against Caesar and his holy bureaucrats by less than honorable Europeans. They constructed an alter universe of the mind complete with false interpretations of reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise to serve their own political, financial and pleasure purposes. The beginning of modern junk intellectualism, the “enlightenment” was a plausible fraud. It’s place in the dust bin of history is well deserved. Can we move on now?

  3. Kevin Smith

    Why do you paint Tennessee with such a broad brush? I live here and we try our damn best to keep this nonsense out, but you lump us all together. I spoke in front of the school board in Knoxville when they thought banning a biology book was a good idea – you didn’t. I wrote every member of the education committee about the failure of an “academic freedom” bill – you didn’t.
    You provide a great service but remember that some of us in Tennessee do support good science and good laws. I vote and I help educate and encourage others to vote against creationists and those that think theocracy is good law.
    Remember that some of your supporters are in “red” states, but we don’t agree with what happens in the state congress. It is one thing to be made fun of because I’m from Tennessee, but it is another coming from you. I support your work, don’t lump me with the creationists because my current residence is in the midst of a large number of anti enlightenment citizens.

  4. Kevin Smith asks: “Why do you paint Tennessee with such a broad brush?”

    Don’t take it personally. I do the same thing with the whole country. I’m horrified by the government, and repulsed by what they do, but my country elects them.

  5. What will it take for politicians to understand that of the 10 commandments, only 2 of them apply to the US : murder and stealing. And even in those cases, there can be things that can help you : kill someone while defending yourself carries a lesser sentence than a rampaging nutcase with a gun… likewise, stealing to feed your kids has to have a lesser sentence than stealing credit cards to get your next shinny laptop… The other 8 ? they only exist when you want to get votes from the crazy, bible thumping, unwashed masses. The problem is the politician believing that stuff… then you’re 1 step closer to a theocracy, and then welcome to the Iranastastes of America…