Mar 7, 2005
On Wednesday, March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases involving the display of the Ten Commandments on government property. One is Kentucky, the other is Texas.
Politicians arguing for the Ten Commandments say they belong in courtrooms and government buildings because they are the basis of law in the United States.
What a crock!
In the first place, commandments such as, "Thou shalt not kill" are clearly NOT the basis of law in a country that still uses the death penalty to kill people – even innocent people, as has been shown many times.
Beyond that, the idea of the Commandments as absolute moral precepts upon which the laws of the U.S. are based is a lie (breaking another "commandment," against bearing false witness). Laws are based on class interests – the interest of a ruling class in a society divided by classes, where some few people benefit from the work that many other people do.
The Ten Commandments – and all the other laws laid out in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy – were themselves the products of a patriarchal society where a few men owned most of the wealth and a great many men – and all women – owned nothing. It was a society that knew nothing of democracy or the rights of women.
The Ten Commandments were not simply suggestions for a "moral life," but actual laws. The punishments for breaking these laws were prescribed in the very same books in which the Commandments are found: a woman who committed adultery was punished by being stoned to death; so was any person who did work on a Sabbath day. (And here we can see that even then the law against killing was not an absolute!) A woman is treated as the property of a man in the Ten Commandments, when she is listed among the possessions one man may not covet or steal from another. Slaves are another "possession" a man may not covet.
The laws in this society are just as much based on the interests of a ruling class as were the laws in Biblical times.
Laws against stealing, for example, can only have meaning in a society where a few own much more than others, and where a great many scrape to get by. The ruling class of any society has always made its wealth by stealing from the people who did the work to create it; the laws of any class society have NEVER done anything to stop this kind of stealing. But the kind of "stealing" that the laws absolutely DO prohibit is when working people try to take some of that wealth back.
The laws of this country, and the police and courts, protect wealth first and foremost. They really could care less if workers get their houses robbed. But if a bank or corporation gets robbed, look out! Utilities can rob us in their bills every month; but as soon as we're late with a payment, we can lose our power. All legally.
The posting of the Ten Commandments is an attempt to tie us to an outmoded society, with outmoded moral precepts.
Society will move forward to where justice and equality truly have meaning under the law – when workers take back that wealth, and strip the bosses of their legal "right" to rob us blind every day.