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Public Schools and the
Ten Commandments

In a recent U.S. News & World Report, Barry W. Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, "Anything they come up with is just a cover for promoting the Ten Commandments."

He is speaking, of course, on the issue of the Ten Commandments displayed in our public schools. His organization vows to fight any legislation that orders or allows schools to display them.

What is it that folks like Lynn fear about the Ten Commandments? Let's take a quick look at each of them and then discuss the issues. I invite anyone with a legitimate concern to send us your comments. We would like to publish counter arguements here on GiantKillers.Org.

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. 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 father upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultry.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  10. 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 anything that is thy neighbour's.
    (Exodus 20:3-17)

Let's look at a short version of each one and some ideas as to why Lynn and others feel they do not belong in our schools:

Have no other gods but the one true God.
There are those, of course, who do not believe in God. They believe that life as we know it came about by random chance. Obviously, any desire to shield our youth from this particular commandment is based more on one's own religious/personal opinion than any legitimate concern over church vs. state.

Have and make no idols and do not bow down and worship anything or anyone other than the one, true God.
By the Bible's definition, many of us worship other gods (ie., money, cars, homes). There is little doubt that the Ten Commandments serve as a constant reminder of our imperfections and sinful nature. Perhaps some folks are tired of hearing these shalt not's because they know deep in their hearts that they are doing wrong.

Not misuse God's name [as in swearing] for He will not hold guiltless those who misuse His name.
If you were the Creator, if you breathed life into man, would you want your creation to curse and disrespect you? Of course not. However, being reminded that God rules supreme further disturbs some people because of their conviction that God does not exist. Again, this is not a matter of church vs. state, but religion (or non-religion in this case).

Work six days and then rest the seventh day, which is called the "Sabbath."
What do you suppose is wrong with setting one day a week aside for rest? Our entire system, where men work 5 or 6 days and then rest 1 day, was set up with this commandment in mind. Again, being reminded of God's sabbath only feeds the belief in our youngsters that there is a God, which some folks disagree with because they do not believe in the Father.

Honor mothers and fathers so we may live long in the land that God has given us.
Children should be taught to respect their mothers and fathers. What on earth is wrong with our young public school children being taught this precept?

Not murder anyone.
Same here. With all of the shootings and killings going on in and about our public schools, clearly our children need to be exposed to moral training. If the parents are not going to do this, then the schools must. Since many children do not attend church, where else are they going to be exposed to this commandment?

Sit with your child some afternoon and evening after school and monitor what they watch on TV. Then, watch them as they play and interact with others. You will be surprised to see them acting out the things they witnessed on television. Is it any wonder that our youth have become so violent? And we, as adults, often blame the instruments of the violence and not the holder of the instrument--perhaps we need to go back to school ourselves?

Not commit adultery.
Oh, this one must bother many folks. We live in a society where we do as we want, when we want, and with whomever we want to do it with. Those of us who wish to stop the Ten Commandments from being displayed in our public schools surely do not wish to continue the immorality that we see today? Where else are these kids going to receive moral training if not in our public schools?

Not to steal.
What could be wrong with teaching our children not to steal?

Not give false testimony.
Unless you are a lawyer, what could be wrong with our younsters learning to tell the truth in all things? Not the truth borne out of convenience, but the truth borne out of what is and what is not.

Not to covet others' goods, wives, etc.
Children should be taught to be content with what they have as well as whatever situation they are in. This does not mean that they can't work to better themselves. Unless they are taught not to covet others' belongings, they could easily be misled to steal, commit adultry, or worse.

I honestly cannot see a thing wrong with teaching the Ten Commandments to our young, can you? Most of the reasons given relate to the "church vs. state" issue, but it's very hard for me to believe that this is the true motivation of Lynn and his crowd.

The issue of "church vs. state" originally related to the church pushing its agenda from within government. We do not have that same situation now. This is what the "church vs. state" portion of the Constitution was meant to prevent and it has done that. However, we do have a First Amendment that says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Those who do not wish to think for themselves will continue to buy into this "church vs. state" excuse for removing any sign of God from public institutions. Isn't it painfully obvious what the result of this action has been over the past three decades or more?

If you have a legitimate concern, related to each of the Ten Commandments being displayed in our public schools, then please send it to Thank you.

Al Colombo

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Copyright©2000 Allan B. Colombo