President Ronald Reagan said, “I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.” Unfortunately, we now know what would have happened if Moses had run them by a federal judge in Virginia — they would have been whittled down to the “Six Commandments.”
At issue is a Giles County high school display of important historical documents, including the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the inclusion of the Ten Commandments in the display. Judge Michael Urbanski, a Virginia federal district court judge, suggested they may be permissibly displayed if edited to omit commandments that reference God.
They are called the “Ten Commandments” for precisely the reason that there are ten directives, and they must be taken as a whole to remain in accordance with their original purpose and intent. Eliminating four would be like removing the preamble from the Declaration of Independence or the final paragraph from the Constitution because of references to God. The deletion of one word from any of these texts would distort the true nature of the documents and alter their intent.
Even worse, the suggestion demonstrates a dangerous trend in American society. There is a methodical campaign to remove faith not only from today’s public square, but from our memory of public squares past. I worry that efforts to indiscriminately erase symbols of faith from society will cause us to forget who we are as a nation. Take these examples.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation is demanding that a cross atop a memorial to veterans of World Wars I and II in Woonsocket, Rhode Island be removed from a fire department parking lot. The monument stood without controversy for over 90 years as a landmark honoring local men who never returned from war.
That same group is also demanding the removal of a memorial statue of Jesus erected on a Montana mountainside more than 50 years ago by Catholic soldiers returning from World War II. They built it in memory of the statues they saw throughout Europe to “perpetually remind themselves and others what it was that sustained them through the horrors of war.”
The American Atheists have filed a lawsuit to block the display of the Ground Zero Cross at the very site where it was discovered. This is not a cross created by a religious organization and placed at Ground Zero as a religious monument. It is a 20-foot steel cross beam that plummeted into the atrium of 6 World Trade Center on September 11th. Miraculously, it stood intact in the rubble in the form of a Latin cross. In the days, weeks and even years following the terrorist attacks, that cross offered comfort to families of victims and weary first responders. To remove the cross, a physical part of the history of that tragic day, would be an insult to the many who found solace in its presence.
Each of these monuments represents a piece of American history, whether it is the Ten Commandments that laid our law’s foundation, a memorial erected in memory of fallen countrymen or a spontaneous display of comfort and hope at our nation’s darkest hour. Faith is a part of our history, just as the freedom to live faith openly must be a part of our future.