An atheist attacked the Ten Commandments as an abrogation of freedom, declaring that America's laws are not based on this Judeo-Christian source. He made these comments denouncing a bill to support public appearances of the Ten Commandments, which passed the Alabama State House last week.
"The Ten Commandments deny freedom of religious expression," Dan Barker, co-president of The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), told The Christian Post in an interview on Tuesday. Barker declared that "the first four commandments basically reject our First Amendment."
Representative Duwayne Bridges, author of H.B. 45, the bill to support the Ten Commandments, argued that "the laws of this country were founded on the Ten Commandments." He wrote the bill in order to awaken people to their right for religious expression, Bridges told The Christian Post in an interview on Tuesday.
Many people "have been intimidated over the years and as a result they are hesitant to proclaim the Christian viewpoint." If the bill becomes law, people will know that "they can proclaim God and Christianity in this country without fear or reprisal, since our country was founded on Godly principles."
The bill would amend the Alabama Constitution to allow public displays of the Ten Commandments. It has passed the state House, but still requires a majority of votes in the Senate, the Governor's signature, and the consent of the people of Alabama.
Ten Commandments Hostile to Freedom?
Barker argued that each of the first four Commandments violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. "Thou shalt have no god before me," the atheist quoted. "Our government can't tell anyone whom to worship." In his view, having the government publicly support the Ten Commandments amounts to declaring Christianity as the state religion.
"Thou shalt not make any graven image," Baker said, quoting the Second Commandment. He argued that this Commandment amounts to "telling us what kind of artwork we can make," and that it is "anti-freedom." The Third Commandment, "thou shalt not take God's name in vain," violates free speech, according to the FFRF co-president. And the Fourth, honoring the Sabbath Day, is also egregious: "Our government has no basis to tell us what day to worship," Baker declared.
Baker admitted that the remaining six Commandments "have some value," but he argued that only three — the prohibitions against stealing, murder, and perjury — have any basis in American law. "The Ten Commandments are meaningful to some people, but they are not the basis of American freedoms," the atheist declared.
The Legal Position
The FFRF co-president also claimed that "the legal arguments have already been settled" on the issue of whether or not public establishments can present the Ten Commandments. Baker cited McCreary County vs. ACLU of Kentucky, a 2005 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that such a display was unconstitutional.
Baker did admit, however, that another 2005 Supreme Court case, Van Orden vs. Perry, allows such religious displays as part of a larger secular display. "If a government in Alabama has some secular display and some of that art included the Ten Commandments, well fine, because the purpose of the display is not religious," the atheist said. But in this case, he argued, the purpose is clearly religious.
Defending The Ten Commandments
Bridges explained that he authored this bill three times before in his 14 years in the Alabama State House, and he is not running for re-election. "I would love to see this bill get passed, so that our children will still enjoy the freedoms that are ours for the taking," he told CP.
The Ten Commandments are a reminder of God's deeds to America, Bridges argued. "God has been so good to America, and we need to honor him in every way."
Bill Armistead, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, told CP that this bill would restore "what I believe our Founding Fathers founded our country on." He argued that the way to overcome "moral decay" is "to reflect on what God's law says because God's law is the foundation of man's law."
Will It Pass?
While Bridges has supported a similar bill in the past, he said he thinks it will finally pass this time. He mentioned an ally in the state Senate who will help pass the bill, and declared that "I know the governor to be a fine Christian man, one who believes very strongly in the Bible and the Word."
Both Bridges and Armistead are confident the majority of Alabama citizens will support the measure. "I have enough faith in the people of Alabama, that they will say yes," Bridges told CP.