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Reflections on Ethics 107
Bearing False Witness

The Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument.

by: John Tyrrell

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A little over a year ago, a one ton granite block, inscribed with the Ten Commandments was installed on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol. Widespread mockery quickly followed as it was immediately noted by everyone other than those directly responsible for the monument that Sabbath had been misspelled as "Sabbeth." At least that error was fixable.

Not so easy to fix were the questions of the constitutionality of the monument. It was expected that lawsuits would be generated which would cost Oklahoma taxpayers far more than the monument was worth. And indeed, a lawsuit did follow from the ACLU. The ACLU suit says that because no other monuments are around this particular monument, the state is endorsing and supporting the monument's religious message. This differentiates the Oklahoma monument from a similar one in Texas which the Supreme Court allowed because there were a considerable number of other monuments nearby.

Oklahoma responded with a legal brief claiming this location was the beginning phase of a park in which additional monuments would be added.

And that opened the door to requests to provide those additional monuments.

An organization known as The Satanic Temple with a mission to “encourage benevolence and empathy”  was first off the mark by applying to place their own monument on the state capitol grounds. (Artist's rendering at left.) It is proposed as a seven foot (two metre) high statue of a seated Satan flanked by two children, and visitors will be able to sit in Satan's lap.

Applications have apparently followed from other organizations; a Hindu society wanting to install a statue of Hanuman, PETA with a proposed installation opposing the eating of meat, and, of course, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Oklahoma's response? The state has voted to place a ban on new memorials at the statehouse.

So much for the state's claim in a legal brief that the Ten Commandments were the beginning phase of a park in which additional monuments would be added.

"Thou shalt not bear false witness." Those words are engraved on the Ten Commandments monument already erected on the statehouse grounds. As discussed in the Wikipedia article on this commandment, it is seen, among other things as a commandment against false testimony.

It seems to me that false testimony is what Oklahoma is relying upon in its defense against the ACLU lawsuit.

And it seems to me that if placing a monument containing the Ten Commandments on the state capitol grounds results in lawmakers deliberately breaking one of those commandments, the the monument isn't doing anyone a damn bit of good. Not to mention, it's probably unconstitutional and defending it is a waste of taxpayer's money as well.

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