Sunday, June 28, 2009

America and the Ten Commandments

It seems hardly a month goes by that we don't see a news story about an attempt to remove a reference to religion from the public sphere. Lately there have been a few stories about removal of Ten Commandments monuments in a couple of states.

But our Founding Fathers often spoke of the Ten Commandments. They are inscribed on several buildings/monuments in Washington, D.C. So what happened? Partly, we turned a corner in 1947 when a Supreme Court Decision emphasized the phrase "separation of church and state" rather than the words actually found in the First Amendment. That phrase could mean many things, and indeed it has turned out that way in other court cases.

In 1983 President Ronald Reagan made a speech before the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. This speech came to be called the "Evil Empire" speech. In the speech Reagan "...defends America's Judeo-Christian traditions against the Soviet Union's totalitarian leadership and lack of religious faith, expressing his belief that these differences are at the heart of the fight between the two nations." (According to the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs, linked below.)

Here are two quotes from that speech where President Reagan specifically references the Ten Commandments:

One recent survey by a Washington-based research council concluded that Americans were far more religious than the people of other nations; 95 percent of those surveyed expressed a belief in God and a huge majority believed the Ten Commandments had real meaning in their lives. And another study has found that an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of adultery, teenage sex, pornography, abortion, and hard drugs. And this same study showed a deep reverence for the importance of family ties and religious belief.
I know that you've been horrified, as have I, by the resurgence of some hate groups preaching bigotry and prejudice. Use the mighty voice of your pulpits and the powerful standing of your churches to denounce and isolate these hate groups in our midst. The commandment given us is clear and simple: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Read the entire speech at The Miller Center

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