One Nation, Under (Only Just One Single) God


Hey, monotheism was good enough for George Washington!

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday that certain displays of the Ten Commandments in public buildings are unconstitutional was not that surprising, since the five justices who voted in the majority were basically upholding earlier rulings by the same bench. What was new was a portion of the dissent written by justices Scalia, Rhenquist, Thomas and (in part) Kennedy.

It’s long been said that the separation of church and state meant that the government was barred from promoting one religion over another, or religion in general. But the dissent reinterprets that history. It says the principle “that the government cannot favor religion over irreligion” is “demonstrably false.”

One cannot say the word “God,” or “the Almighty,” one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs. With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists. The thanksgiving Proclamation issued by George Washington at the instance of the First Congress was scrupulously nondenominational-but it was monotheistic.

Whoa!, says the majority opinion written by Justice Souter. “This is truly a remarkable view.”

Other members of the Court have dissented on the ground that the Establishment Clause bars nothing more than governmental preference for one religion over another, but at least religion has previously been treated inclusively. Today’s dissent, however, apparently means that government should be free to approve the core beliefs of a favored religion over the tenets of others, a view that should trouble anyone who prizes religious liberty. Certainly history cannot justify it; on the contrary, history shows that the religion of concern to the Framers was not that of the monotheistic faiths generally, but Christianity in particular, a fact that no member of this Court takes as a premise for construing the Religion Clauses.”

At least for now. There are certainly people who might want to push that barrier, too, like the folks are the Foundation for Moral Law, who are offering Ten Commandments lapel pins, as well as detailed photographs of ousted Judge Roy Moore’s famous Ten Commandments monument, for those who haven’t seen it in person.

As for the commandments themselves ( ” ‘Thou shalt not kill?’ Wouldn’t that make the war in Iraq –“ “Silence, sinner!!”), anyone needing a refresher course can click here—or here if you speak Hungarian.

Like I always say, “Ne legyenek néked idegen isteneid én elõttem.”