Do Gardner, Becker, Lambert, Szabo, and others still favor public posting of the 10 Commandments?

(Thou shalt not touch the third rail – promoted by Colorado Pols)



The 10 Commandments always make for good conversations. For example, do you prefer the version that includes “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife?” Or the version that shortens this to “Thou shall not covet?”

Trouble is, most everyone I ask, except my mother-in-law, can’t recite the Commandments, so they can’t talk about the finer points.

Most people remember some of them, but the middle group trips them up. The ones like, “Remember thou keep holy the sabbath day.”

In any case, I was asking people about the Commandments last week because a U.S. Court of Appeals in Ohio ruled Wed. that a county judge violated the constitutional separation of church and state by hanging a  poster listing the 10 Commandments in his courtroom.

Not a huge story, of course, but one that’s been dragging on for a while and has developed a following.  And it’s a story with a Colorado angle that local reporters missed.

During the 2010 primary U.S. Sen. candidate Ken Buck, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner,  State Sen. Ken Lambert (SD 9), State Sen. Kevin Grantham (SD 2), Rep. Mark Barker (HD 17), Rep. Jon Becker (HD 63), Rep. Ray Scott (HD 54), and Rep. Libby Szabo (HD 27) apparently  filled out a survey indicating that they support “public posting of 10 Commandments.” It was the Christian Family Alliance Candidate Survey.

Buck’s back in Weld County, but the ones doing people’s work, do they still favor the public posting of the 10 Commandments, even though it looks even more definitively like the law does not?

Maybe you’re thinking this is a waste, and we should move on to a more timely topic.

But it’s obviously worth a reporter’s time to track back and find out what candidates are thinking about their election pledges, especially when the issues involved are in the news.

Much has been written about the trap Colorado Senate Ken Buck fell into when he positioned himself on the far right of the political spectrum, advocating, for example, a ban on common forms of birth control. These far-right positions helped Buck beat his opponent Jane Norton in the GOP primary, but they tied him in knots later, as he tried to say no one cared about the social-conservative issues that Buck had passionately endorsed in the primary.

Compared to a far-right pledge on abortion, a promise to support posting the 10 Commandments may sound like a throw away.

But just in case you’re like me, and you can’t seem to remember the Commandments, here’s one common version:

1. I am the lord your god.

2. Thou shalt not take the name of the lord, thy god, in vain.

3. Remember thou keep holy the sabbath day.

4. Honor they mother and father.

5. Thou shalt not kill.

6. Thou shalt not commit adultry.

7. Thou shalt not steal.

8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

So, as can see, we’re not just talking about, Thou shalt not steal, here.  

My own atheism biases me, but can anyone explain how it possibly doesn’t mix church and state for the government to post this religious list. They best argument is, well, the government already allows public displays of religion on government property with government funds. But this is more extreme than, “Merry Christmas.”

Messages to Gardner, Szabo, and Becker were not returned on Friday.

One of the core functions of journalists, when you think about it, should be to track campaign pledges.  It helps people understand the election process, the dyanamics of a primary versus the general election, for example. It helps illuminate candidates’ commitments to doing what they say they’ll do, which is clearly a major concern of voters these days. Generally, reporting on campaign promises helps voters make informed decisions, which is, again, a big part of what journalism is about.

Regardless of where you come down on this, journalists should be in the business of tracking campaign pledges. And this is an interesting one.

29 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    “Remember thou keep holy the sabbath day.”  

  2. allyncooper says:

    I’d like to see the Ten Commandments posted at the headquarters of big corporations and banks. “Thou shalt not steal” should be in bold type, underlined, and printed in blaze orange.  

  3. dwyer says:

    I think Jason you have posted the Catholic version…not the Protestant one….

    • BlueCat says:

      the originals which would be the Jewish ones. Christians welcome to appropriate  them of course. So first you’d have to agree on which version is to be posted and I don’t see how you can do that without an unconstitutional official government endorsement of religion by virtue of having the government choose one religion or sect’s version.

      I like the founders solution: Just keep government out of the religion business either for (barred from establishing) or against (barred from banning) and let everyone have unfettered freedom of conscience where religious matters are concerned.  

    • BlueCat says:

      Second commandment from Exodus:

      Second Commandment (Exodus 20:3-6): You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself any graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them, for I, the Lord Your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

      Of course Jews have long been ignoring this one. In order to keep it you couldn’t have photos, portraits, anything like that and historically there really were nothing but decorative patterns allowed, no depictions of people or animals.

      Now you see all kinds of depictions right there in many Jewish houses of worship but when I was a teenager and our liberal Reconstructionist congregation first installed a statue depicting Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments in the lobby area it was a huge controversy.  Most of us pretty casual, not terribly observant, liberal Jews were aghast at having a (yikes!) graven image right there in the synagogue! Abomination, oh my! I mean that was supposed to be for Catholics with their saints and bleeding Jesus on the cross hanging all over everything, not for us! But people got over it.

    • Jason Salzman says:

      Wikipedia has a nice chart with different versions of the Commandments, if you’re curious.

  4. Middle of the Road says:

    Not just because I’m an atheist; because it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the list of “shall not do” stuff.  

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      The complete first commandment (as given directly by God to Moses, who later handed it to Martin Luther, who then mailed it to the religious scribes under the auspices of King James):

      I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.   (KJV)

      I only point this up not to prove to myself that my parent’s moral training is still irrevocably branded upon my psyche, but to show the problem with this, or any, religious teaching promulgated by secular government — the question of whose version of approved “truth” gets sanctioned?  (And, can you even do that in a republican democracy?)  

      I had not ever seen the line-up of commandments as Jason used.  I suspect that this is indeed a “Catholic” version since it omits the God-given (i.e., “Lutheran”) 2nd commandment prohibition on “graven images”:

      Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.  (KJV)

      We Lutherans (being true Christians and children of God) weren’t permitted any “graven images” (and by that God clearly meant: rosaries, crucifixes, statutes or medallions of saints, and assorted sundry and other Catholic paraphernalia).  But, we did get off much easier on coveting — apparently coveting is a doubly difficult problem for “some” — by having only one prohibition instead of two in the tenth commandment:

      Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.  (KJV)

      Our (by that I mean obviously, “the correct”) 10th commandment not only prohibits coveting, but shows the proper perspective that God has towards women — women, specifically wives in this case, are the property of men as God Almighty has declared it.

      So I’d be OK if you post my Ten Commandments — but don’t expect me to submit to or approve of some other less-devinely-inspired, flawed, and corrupted version of truth.  After all, in this country we (and by “we” that really means “I”) still have religious freedoms as well as second-amendment rights.  

      (Actually, truth be told, I guess if it were just me I’d be OK with Jason’s version since I am both tolerant and liberal.  But, there are impressionable children to consider, and I can’t bear the thought of having all those little souls not understanding that God really doesn’t like folks to be wearing St. Christopher medals.  So, I have to object — for the sake of the children.)

  5. Gray in Mountains says:

    on CoPols

  6. GalapagoLarryGalapagoLarry says:

    #10 said “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s ass.” In Sunday school back then we giggled, but now that I’m in my years of declining abilities I keep it quite seriously. Fear not, neighbors.

    More seriously, Jason: This is not a throwaway. For fundamentalist Repubs this emits all sorts of dog whistles dealing with conservative purity, “values”, original intent, anti- secularism (which they equate with liberalism), and many other much-feared “otherisms”. For them this is a biggy. Foolish as it is, they’ll never let go of it. Keep tracking.

  7. Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

    They don’t give a shit.

    They just say this kind of stuff, on clockwork, a couple of months before an election to get their sheep-like base all worked up.

  8. Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

    Unless you’re a Republican wanting to tax moviegoers.

    Or a Beezley wanting to steal from the public schools to give to his charter buddies.

  9. IndyNinjaIndyNinja says:

    I think it depends on the manner of how they are displayed.

    Putting them ten feet high across the front of a court room is a bit different from just having them in or near the building at all.

    I personally would like to see the ten commandments framed and posted in every courthouse and state capitol in the US.

    But right next to it, I want a equal sized framed printing of Hammarabi’s Code.

    And next to that, the Code of Nesilim, and the Ishtar Gate Insciption, and the Avesta Page, and a dozen other ancient legal texts.

    It shows that the rule of law and the concept of civil order is a constant through the recorded histories of almost every culture in the world. And that is worth displaying, IMHO.

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