My Old Kentucky Homesite

No Bushes Were Burned in the Making of This Post

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/14/2010

Today, the Lexington Herald-Leader ran a story about a federal appeals court decision allowing Grayson County to re-post the Ten Commandments in its courthouse.

According to the LHL online edition, as of the time I began to write this post, seven comments about the decision have been published on the Web site, although only six are viewable. Of those six, the boos run five to one against the yays.

Here’s the sole response, complete and unedited, of the one who applauds the decision:

GOOD If the ACLU is for it- I usually oppose their position.

My  comment bemoaning the decision is the longest (you could have guessed that, right?), although it still falls within the e-rag’s character-count strictures.

There are a number of different versions of the Ten Commandments. The Old Testament prints two different lists, one in Exodus (20:3-27), one in Deuteronomy (5:6-21). Modern religions have conflicting versions, based on their own interpretations and translations. Jews, Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and various Protestant sects do not agree on the specific wording.

Worse, the first two (or three, depending on your own particular version) “commandments” have to do with worshipping the Judeo-Christian deity, as opposed to other deities or no deities. So it’s clearly a sectarian propaganda piece, with little, if any, historical or educational value.

The Ten Commandments has no place in a courthouse, at least in America. In countries controlled by religious fanatics like the Taliban, a comparable document would, of course, be displayed proudly.

It’s always important, I think, to reinforce the idea that theocratic bullies are essentially the same the world over, regardless of their specific beliefs. When they get god-crazed enough, they kill people in the name of heavenly justice. That’s what happened with Scott Roeder, who gunned down Dr. George Tiller in cold blood. It’s what happened with the Grand Inquisitors and the Fort Hood shooter and the Salem Witch Hunters. It’s what happened with the 9/11 bombers and with the Hebrews who massacred the Midianites. It even happened, as Pat Robertson claims,  to the Big Bully himself, who allegedly killed perhaps 50,000 Haitians because of their “pact with the devil.”

The Ten Commandments is the religious equivalent of a gateway drug.

17 Responses to “No Bushes Were Burned in the Making of This Post”

  1. Kirk M said

    Well, considering that there is indeed different references in the bible each referencing differing sets of commandments which, as you say, are constantly being argued over by various theistic sects to this day (of course, what else?) plus the fact the commandments by themselves do not necessarily promote any religion over another nor in fact promote any religion whatsoever…(only people can do that)

    (pause to breath a bit, that last sentence was a doozey).

    …and considering that the first common definition of religion is…

    “A collection of practices, based on beliefs and teachings that are highly valued or sacred” (you notice it mentions nothing about a deity?)

    …in which “The People” could very well form a religion around the Apple computer (oh…wait, they already have)…

    …reduces the ten commandments to simply another set of rules (guidelines?) for living a day to day life. If you took away all the flowery language, gave ’em a good shake and laid them out in today’s accepted lingo I do believe that most of the people wouldn’t even recognize them or their origin. Some might even say they make sense. Anyway, it seems to me that they could just let the residents of the affected community vote on it. Give it a 60% majority to pass, yea or nay and the subject can’t be brought up again for another year.

    I have a great idea. Go ahead and put them up. Then hang a copy of the Bill of Rights right next to them. That ought to make some people waggle their eyebrows some.

    Perhaps my life has made me too objective or even a bit pragmatic about things like this but to paraphrase Shakespeare; I can’t help but think it’s much ado about nothing (Hey na-ne, hey, na-ne).

  2. Evie said

    The majority opinion by Judge David W. McKeague said the county’s display did not have the primary purpose of endorsing or promoting religion, and so was acceptable.

    U.S. District Judge Karl S. Forester of Lexington, who sat on the federal appeals panel, joined in the majority decision.

    Judge Karen Nelson Moore strongly dissented. The claim by county officials that the display was posted for educational purposes was a sham, she said.

    Kudos to the lone women in the judicial trio who saw through the BS. Just in case anyone thinks she was wrong, this little gem appears in the same news article:

    Grayson County Judge-Executive Gary Logsdon said the county will continue the fight to post the Ten Commandments even if it goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    “We’re just overwhelmed and thank the Lord,” Logsdon said in reaction to the decision. “It gives you great hope of a moral country.”

    Nope. No religious intent at all behind the movement to post the commandments in a building owned by a secular government for the sole purpose of conducting secular governmental business.

    Re: Kirk’s idea to “Go ahead and put them up. Then hang a copy of the Bill of Rights right next to them. That ought to make some people waggle their eyebrows some.”

    I wish that were true. Unfortunately, I doubt that most of the people rushing through their business at the courthouse have attention spans that are sufficiently conditioned for attending to two documents in one reading session.

  3. Kirk:
    Some situations are not open to majority rule in this country, even if the majority is overwhelming. By posting the Ten Commandments in a courthouse — a courthouse! — the hidden message is that only those who hold a specific worldview deserve to find justice here. The question of whether or not to display the Ten Commandments is not quite as trivial as it at first appears.

    By the way, there are dozens of dictionaries available in English. I can’t find your “common” definition of “religion,” so I’ll quote the first definition given in the Random House Webster’s College Edition:

    a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies …

    Since, to some, Steve Jobs is that superhuman agency, I suppose Applism is a valid religion. Do note, though, that a few Applist heretics prefer to pray to Steve Wozniak.

    I’d like to commend Judge Moore for her choice of the honest word “sham.”

  4. I am personally fond of the word “sham.”

  5. Even sham has multiple definitions. Here’s #4 over at

    A decorative cover made to simulate an article of household linen and used over or in place of it: a pillow sham.

    I’m going to stick my neck out on a limb and say that the majority reasoning was a sham, in that it was a decorative cover designed to simulate the real reasoning of the court, i.e., “Let’s get God back in the courthouse!”

  6. “We’re just overwhelmed and thank the Lord,” Logsdon said in reaction to the decision.

    Nope, nothing religious about that display.

  7. Kirk M said

    Larry – Humph! I forgot to put quotation marks around the word “common”. I was going to provide a link to the definition (Wiktionary) also but I fat fingered the html too many times so I decided to heck with it. Considering that there’s probably half as many variations of the definition of “religion” as there are religions themselves the point is most likely moot at best.

    Hoping that we can agree to disagree, if justice were truly blind then it wouldn’t actually matter what set or sets of “rules of conduct” adorned the courthouse walls nor the origins of said rules. Of course justice stopped being blind (and just plain turned around and walked away) once lawyers began working for money rather than their clients and the guilty were turned loose due to so-called “technicalities”.

    Of course that’s just my personal opinion.

    Considering that no matter what happens or what is decided, someone(s) or some group is going to complain about it I really don’t think there’s a correct answer here.

  8. Kirk M said

    Evie – Sad as it seems, you’re probably right.

  9. I would like to know when it was that lawyers didn’t work for money, and those pesky “technicalities” you’re referring to are laws. Remember laws, the things upon which all this rests? Well if you forgot, you’re not alone. You have at least 2 judges who’ve forgotten as well.

    Justice is blind but people aren’t, Kirk, which is why extraneous shit shouldn’t be at the courthouse. Capiche?

  10. Kirk M said

    PhillyChief – Of course I capiche, all too well I’m afraid. I especially understand that just because a thing is law does not mean the law is correct (you notice I didn’t say right?) or that a law hasn’t become more of a liability than an asset over time. When a law behind a “technicality” does more harm than good more times than not then it’s time to rethink that law.

    This is all getting a bit off topic and I’m not really disagreeing with anyone on particular. My whole point here was that I don’t think that there’s a real answer for this no more than there’s a real answer for the ongoing debate on whether it’s proper to say the Lord’s prayer in schools or not. Or whether “In God We Trust” should be printed on our paper currency.

    My whole point (which is strictly personal btw) is that it shouldn’t matter. And that it’s pretty much guaranteed that no matter what is decided, it won’t be the right decision according to one group of people or another. Hopefully the future will bring better circumstances but for now the debate will continue.

  11. My whole point here was that I don’t think that there’s a real answer for this no more than there’s a real answer for the ongoing debate on whether it’s proper to say the Lord’s prayer in schools or not. Or whether “In God We Trust” should be printed on our paper currency.

    And I do, thanks to pesky technicalities like the Establishment Clause. :)

  12. Percy:
    “Sham” is much more colorful than “swindle.” And it’s easier to rhyme, too.

    Cute play on words, and I agree completely with your point. But your mixed metaphor, “I’m going to stick my neck out on a limb“, conjures up some very weird mental pictures. I’m thinking of you in an Alice outfit, after you imbibed from the “Drink Me” bottle. (Usually, I picture you more as the Mad Hatter.)

    I’m always shocked that the clearly stated motivations of TC-pushers aren’t taken into account by judges. I think Judge Moore’s dissent did so, and she was accusing her colleagues of supporting this obvious legal con.

    If all Americans were reasonable, a mythological allusion at the courthouse door wouldn’t matter. (For example, no one complains about Blindfolded Lady Justice.) But, as you know, many Americans are not reasonable. Some of the Ten Commandments are fine, and applicable to a sectarian justice system: Don’t Kill, Don’t Steal, Don’t Bear False Witness. Others are nice ideas, maybe, but stupidly impractical: Don’t Even Think About How Great Your Neighbor’s Stuff Is; Don’t Check Out Your Neighbor’s Sexy Wife When She’s Sitting Topless In Her Backyard; Give Your Parents A Call Once in a While. But the really poisonous commandments are the ones that ram a specific deity down the throats of all people. You may not have thought about this before, but imagine for a moment that you are not one of those people who believe in the Judeo-Christian god. If you found yourself in a position of having to seek justice in that courthouse, you’d be entering with one strike against you already; the blatant message you’ve been given when you walk through the doors is that you’re not worthy of the adjudicators’ own idea of justice (whether it’s blind or not).

    SI and Philly are right. There’s absolutely NO good reason for those ten (or eleven, or twelve) rules being displayed in a courthouse. They’re sitting there for propagandistic purposes only, purposes that have nothing to do with the law. Setting up the Ten Commandments as an exemplar is yet another tactic of would-be theocrats in their attempt to blanket the land in oh-so-pious Christianity. Oddly, there’s probably not a single official of that court who hasn’t broken at least one of the sillier commandments. Do any of them really spend the whole day meditating on Shabbos?

  13. Kirk M said

    PhillyChief – Well, not all them technicalities are pesky. :) Besides, I never said technicalities were pesky in the first place. It takes a human to purposely misuse them.

    Larry – Oh, I concede the point that the Ten Commandments are better off not hanging about a courthouse, not in this day and age anyway. This modern day reality doesn’t take away from what I was saying though but that subject is can be filed under an evening discussion friends. And I agree that some of the commandments are silly and one or two poisonous as you say. So is having “blind faith” in the bible (or any other “great writing” that belief revolves around) for that matter.

    On that note I have to take my old Jeep Cherokee to be inspected.

  14. Kirk:
    You hit the nail on the head with “not in this day and age.” And I look forward, someday, to that evening discussion.

    In the meantime, I hope the inspection goes well. Whatever happens, though, don’t let your neighbor catch you coveting his car.

  15. […] may remember as the author of No More Hornets, but who now runs My Old Kentucky Homesite) still has a bee in his bonnet about the Ten Commandments, which apparently can be displayed in US courthouses – if you’re a theocratic moron […]

  16. If only a saboteur would change a couple of the commandments, we could see if anyone noticed the difference.

  17. Des:
    A saboteur — named Google (with some help from me) — has done just what you recommend. May I suggest you read this post.

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