Politics and the Church – Building a Free Nation [Part 20]

This week we will start out with the Fifth Commandment and see where that leads.  The Fifth Commandment exhorts children to honor their parents.  In 1642 a Connecticut law cited to the Fifth Commandment for the proposition that children should honor their parents: “If any child or children above sixteen years old, and of sufficient understanding shall curse or smite their normal father or mother, he or they shall be put to death; unless it can be sufficiently testified that the parents have been unchristianly negligent in the education of such children, or so provoke them by extreme and cruel correction that they have been forced thereunto to preserve themselves from death or maiming. (Ex. 21:17, Lev. 20, Ex. 20:15).  The Louisiana Court of Appeals referred specifically to the Ten Commandments when making the following observation: “Honor thy father and thy mother,’ is as much a command of the municipal law as it is part of the Decalogue, regarded as holy by every Christian people. ‘A Child,’ says the code, ‘whatever be his age, owes honor and respect to his father and mother.’ (Ruiz v. Clancy, 157 So. 737,738 [La. Ct. App. 1934]).  Similar dictates were issued by New York.

     The Sixth Commandment simply states, “Thou shalt not kill.”  Citations to the incorporation of this Commandment from colonial times to the present are legion.  Courts have been very candid in tracing the prohibition back to the Sixth Commandment.  For instance, a Kentucky appeals court stated: “The rights of society as well as those of appellant are involved and are also to be protected, and to that end all forms of governments following the promulgation of Moses at Mt. Sinai has required each and every one of its citizens that ‘Thou shall not murder.’  If that law is violated, the one guilty of it has no right to demand more than a fair trial, and if, as a result thereof, the severest punishment for the crime is visited upon him, he has no one to blame but himself.” (Young v. Commonwealth, 52 S.W. 963, 966 [Ky. Ct. App. 1932]).  As recently as 1998, a Wisconsin appeals court quoted a 1974 Indiana Supreme Court opinion which stated: Virtually all criminal laws are in one way or another the progeny of Judeo-Christian ethics.  We have no intention to overrule the Ten Commandments.” (Wisconsin v. Schultz, 582 N.W. 2d 112, 117 [Wis. App. 1998] [quoting Sumpter v. Indiana,306 N.E. 2d 95, 101{Ind. 1974}]).

     The Seventh Commandment states, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  A 1641 Massachusetts law declared, “If any person committeth adultery with a married or espoused wife, the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death. Ex.30:14.”  Similar laws were enacted by Connecticut in 1642, Rhode Island in 1647, New Hampshire in 1680 and Pennsylvania in 1705.  The Texas Criminal Appeals court has stated: “The accused would insist upon the defense that the female consented.  The state would reply that she could not consent.  Why?  Because the law prohibits, with a penalty, the completed act.  ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ is our law as well as the law of the Bible.’  (Hardin v. State, 46 S.W. 803, 808 [Tex. Crim. App. 1898]) The Washington Supreme Court stated, ” Adultery, whether promiscuous or not, violates one of the Ten Commandments and the statutes of this State.” (Schreifels v. Schreifels, 287 P.2d 1001, 1005 [Wash. 1955])

     The Eighth Commandment states “Thou shalt not steal.”  This command is too numerous to trace in this limited outline.  James Kent, who together with Justice Joseph Story, was considered as one of the two “Fathers of American Jurisprudence,” wrote, “To overturn Justice by plundering others tended to destroy civil society, to violate the law of nature, and the institutions of Heaven.” (James Kent, 1 Commentaries on American Law 7 [1826]).  Not only have the laws against theft been derived from the Eighth Commandment, but also laws protecting the integrity of elections (Doll v. Bender, 47 S.E. 803, 300 [W.Va. 1904] [Dent, J. concurring]), and the US Constitution’s Takings Clause. (Pennsylvania Co. v. United States, 214 F. 445, 455 [W.D. Pa 1914]).

     Next week well complete these brief reviews of how the Ten Commandments played an important part in the laws of this land.  Unfortunately, today many of our elected officials choose to let their own opinions establish a base for laws.  Sometimes that is so they can protect their own behind the scenes acts of lawlessness. As citizens we must make a decision on that based on what we see going on in the ‘swamp’, known as Washington, D.C.

-Bob Munsey

“Worship doesn’t involve behaving as if nothing is wrong; it’s making sure everything is right…right with God and with one another.”  Julie Ackerman Link

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