Thursday, June 20, 2024


No separation of church and state, please -- we're Republicans:
Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom....

The legislation that Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed into law on Wednesday requires a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” in all public classrooms, from kindergarten to state-funded universities.

... the governor signed the bill into law at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette on Wednesday....
A Catholic school seems like an odd choice for this signing ceremony.

So, even within Christianity, the Ten Commandments aren't precisely the same across traditions — the text is translated and even *numbered* differently. This law appears to mandate the KJV version — a Bible translation entire Christian traditions reject.

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— Jack Jenkins ( Jun 19, 2024 at 3:58 PM

Jenkins is right. The text of the bill includes the prescribed version of the Ten Commandments, and it's not the version I grew up with as a Catholic child. The Catholic Ten Commandments don't include "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven images" or any other translation of this passage. As a result, the commandments that follow are numbered differently, and Catholics have two "covet" commandments rather than one.

Remember, Louisiana is 22% Catholic (according to the Public Religion Research Institute), or perhaps 26% Catholic (according to Pew). So this isn't just Christianity being imposed on the state's Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, and so on -- it's also Protestantism being imposed on Catholics.

The American impulse to display the (Protestant) Ten Commandments got a huge boost from Hollywood in 1956, when Paramount Pictures released Cecil B. DeMille's film The Ten Commandments. Among those recruited to endorse the film was a judge in Minnesota:
In the 1940s, wishing to avoid sentencing to a juvenile reformatory a teenage boy who had stolen a car, Judge E.J. Ruegemer instructed the boy to find and keep a copy of the Ten Commandments. Inspired by the eventual success of this alternative sentence, Judge Ruegemer began distributing copies of the Commandments nationally through the Fraternal Order of Eagles, of which he was a member, starting in 1951. The F.O.E. distributed 100,000 printed copies of the Commandments and 250,000 copies of a comic book called “On Eagle’s Wings” promoting the organization’s belief in the transformative power of learning about the Commandments.

In 1956, DeMille contacted Ruegemer with hopes of using the judge’s service project to help promote his epic film. Funded in part by publicity money from Paramount, DeMille and Ruegemer ordered granite monuments with the Commandments engraved on them to be placed in front of courthouses and in public parks across the country.... DeMille often sent stars from the film to the dedications....

Several of the monuments still exist around the country, although some were removed as part of community and judicial conflicts over the separation of church and state. In 2005, the Supreme Court case found the F.O.E. monuments constitutional, in a case involving one of the monuments that was placed on the grounds of the Texas state capitol.
It's not clear whether this campaign inspired Roy Moore:
In 2001 ... Judge Roy Moore, the newly-elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, commissioned a 5,280 pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments. In violation of United States Supreme Court statutes, he placed it inside the rotunda of the state court building. As with the F.O.E. sculptures, inscribed on the monument were passages from the Declaration of Independence, the national anthem, and other writings central to the founding of the United States.
Judge Ruegemer thought he'd influebnced Moore.
Judge Ruegemer saw a connection, however, between his own and DeMille’s work to promote the Commandments, and the Commandments, and Judge Moore’s monument. In an interview he gave to the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2003 at the age of 101, Ruegemer stated that, “You could say this big mess in Alabama, where the judge refused to obey a federal court order to remove the Ten Commandments, you could say that all started with that 16-year-old St. Cloud boy.”
So the publicity campaign for a movie released at a time of anxiety about communism, juvenile delinquency, and other real or imagined threats to the American way of life became part of our now apparently permanent culture war. Obviously there will be court battles over this law. I assume that the federal judiciary Leonard Leo has created will use the battles to declare that, yes, separation of church and state is a myth, or maybe that this isn't really the establishment of religion, or that establishment of religion is fine as long as only the states do it. But I hope I'm wrong.

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