Politics and the Church – Building a Free Nation [Part 15]

When a governmental practice has been deeply imbedded in the history and tradition of a country, such practice will not violate an establishment clause because the practice will have become part of the fabric of that society.  The Ten Commandments played a significant role in the development of American law.  The incorporation of the Ten Commandments in law and policy pre-dates the Constitution.  This intermingling of the Ten Commandments into American law and government was long before the appearance of legislative prayers.  The drafters of the First Amendment would never have dreamed they were abolishing the Decalogue.

     From the inception of America, courts, legislatures, and our founding fathers have referred to the Ten Commandments and their impact on our culture and legal system.  The Supreme Court has often recognized the impact the Ten Commandments has played on our system of law and government.

     The Ten Commandments have been repeatedly used by government from the conception of America.  Each of the Ten Commandments has played some significant role in the foundation of our system of law and government.  Twelve of the thirteen original colonies adopted the entire Decalogue into their civil and criminal laws.  Joseph Story, the eminent Supreme Court Justice who was the youngest Justice ever appointed and who served on the Supreme Court for thirty four years, from 1811 to 1845, remarked: “Now, there will probably be found few persons in this, or any other Christian country, who would deliberately contend that it was unreasonable, or unjust to foster and encourage the Christian religion generally, as a matter of sound policy, as well as revealed truth.  In fact, every American colony, from its foundation down to the revolution, with the exception of Rhode Island, did openly, by the whole course of its laws and institutions, support and sustain, in some form, the Christian religion; and almost invariably gave a peculiar sanction to some of its fundamental doctrines.  And this has continued to be the case in some of the states down to the present period, without the slightest suspicion, that it was against the principles of public law, or republican liberty.”

     I address the Ten Commandments so ardently because I am a firm believer that we can never have a truly free nation until our citizens can trust each other.  I believe that the basics of civilization espoused by the Ten Commandments is the foundation for that trust.  I cannot think of a single Commandment that, if followed, would destroy this nation.  And don’t be deceived, Satan knows this and that is why Satan want to dismiss the Ten Commandments at every opportunity.  So, let’s take a bit of a detailed look at how the Ten Commandments played a major role in building a free nation.

     The First Commandment states,” Thou shall have no other gods before me.”  In 1610 Virginia required its leaders to give ‘allegiance’ to God, “from whom all power and authority is derived,” and who is the “King of kings, the Commander of commanders, and Lord of hosts.”  The law stated the following: “Since we owe our highest and supreme duty, our greatest and all our allegiance to Him from whom all power and authority is derived, and flows as from the first and only fountain, and being especially soldiers impressed in this sacred cause, we must alone expect our success from Him who is only the Blesser of all good attempts, the King of kings, the Commander of commanders, and the Lord of hosts, I do strictly command and charge all Captains and Officers of what quality of nature soever, whether commanders in the field, or in town or towns, forts or fortresses, to have a care that the Almighty God be duly and daily served, and that they call upon their people to hear sermons, and that also they diligently frequent morning and evening prayer themselves by their own example and daily life and duties herein, encourage others thereunto.” (Articles, Laws, and Orders, Divine, Politic and Martial for the Colony of Virginia, A Documentary History, pages 315-316, Donald S. Lutz, ed., Indianapolis, IN; Liberty Fund, Inc.,1998)

     In 1641 Massachusetts adopted a law that stated, “If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god but the Lord God, he shall be put to death. (Deut. 13.6, 10; Deut. 17:2, 6; Ex.22.20.”  (Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641) reprinted in 1890).  Even today, most every state constitution continues to reference God or a Supreme Being.  The preamble to Alabama’s Constitution of 1901 states that the people are “invoking the favor and guidance of almighty God…”  The 1820 Preamble to Main’s Constitution describes God as “the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe.”  West Virginia’s Preamble to the 1872 Constitution “reaffirms our faith in a constant reliance upon God.”

     These phrases are reflections of an idea and belief in the preeminence of God that flows directly from the First Commandment.  This is not to advocate that the First Commandment be enacted and enforced today upon pain of death, but merely to demonstrate the Commandment was and is a major part of the development of law and government.  Indeed, our national motto proclaims, “In God We Trust”, not “In Gods We Trust”.

     Thus, our founders saw that the only way a nation could be united is for that nation to be founded on a single set of principles by which all citizens would be guided.  As we can see today, failure to abide by that set of principles can tear a nation apart.  We can only hope…and pray…that God will have mercy on us before it is too late.

     Next week we will delve into the Second Commandment.  Ignorance of and ignorance of this Commandment has destroyed many lives and families.

-Bob Munsey 

“Instead of focusing on what is wrong, let’s obey the One who knows what is right.”   Julie Ackerman Link

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