Wednesday, March 2, 2005

A Novel Approach

The Supreme Court takes up the question of displaying the Ten Commandments in public places today. It’s a hot-button issue, as noted in this editorial in today’s New York Times.

The wall between church and state dates proudly to the earliest days of the republic. The founders may not have anticipated a country with many Hindu and Buddhist Americans, but they were wise enough to write a document that protects their rights. Our increasingly diverse nation must not appear to prefer some religions, and some citizens, over others.

That’s a good point. But as a friend suggested to me the other day, why do we have to accept the premise that the commandments are holy scripture and therefore worthy of debate? If it was just a passage from a novel, who would care? By conceding the point that the commandments are sacred texts, we separate them from the rest of literature and elevate to a status of a religious icon without the help of the courts. Why don’t we post the commandments along side of other worthy quotes from literature? After all, “The Bible is a book. It’s a good book, but it’s not the only book.” (Inherit the Wind, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee). So I suggest that we allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in any courthouse or public building along with other quotes from writings that could serve as inspiration – or warning – to all who enter.

The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers – William Shakespeare

Lawyers, I suppose, were children once – Charles Lamb

One Ring to rule them all; One Ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all, And in the darkness bind them. – J.R.R. Tolkien

Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win. – Victor Laslo, Casablanca

Hope is my greatest weakness. – Bobby Cramer

I am sure that there are plenty of other pieces of literature that are worthy of being carved in stone over our courts. Any suggestions?