Lawsuit Claims 6 of 10 Commandments Violate U.S. Constitution
Atheists have sued the state of Oklahoma over the placement of a 10 Commandments monument on public property, claiming more than half of the biblical commands violate the U.S. Constitution.
“We have a religious monument, placed on government property, by government mandate,” David Silverman, president of American Atheists, which filed the lawsuit (pdf), said in a prepared statement. “That is an explicit violation of First Amendment protections of separation of religion and government. As though that isn’t going far enough, Oklahoma lawmakers have passed a law requiring that the monument endorse one specific religion, a clear violation of Fourteenth Amendment equal protection. There is now a law, on the books of Oklahoma, respecting the establishment of Christianity, which is grossly unconstitutional. The legislature has broken the law, plain and simple, and we are suing to right this wrong.”
The plaintiffs say five of the 10 Commandments express ideas that conflict with the First Amendment, and a sixth commandment violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
The first commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”) violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which forbids the government from giving preference to any particular religion, according to the plaintiffs.
The second commandment (“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…”) also violates the First Amendment, they say, because it conflicts with the right to free speech and expression.
Likewise, the third commandment (“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”) represents a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and expression.
The fourth commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”) is yet another violator of the First Amendment because it requires people to engage in a religious practice, which again conflicts with the Establishment Clause.
The fifth commandment (“Honour thy father and thy mother”) tells Americans how to express themselves, putting it in conflict with the freedom of expression under the First Amendment.
Finally, the tenth commandment (“Thou shalt not covet…”) is tantamount to creating a “thought crime,” the atheists argue, which violates the Equal Protection clause.
The lawsuit is the second one filed in response to the commandments monument, which was placed directly outside the State Capitol building by Oklahoma officials in 2012. The American Civil Liberties Union also sued the state over it.
The Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission, which approves all monuments, found itself receiving other requests for religious monuments from Hindus and Satanists once the 10 Commandments one went up.
The commission has now placed a moratorium on all new monuments until the litigation is resolved.
To Learn More:
American Atheists v. Trait Thompson (U.S. District Court, Western District of Oklahoma) (pdf)
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