Friday, February 04, 2005

Jesus Told Me So
Gregg Easterbrook suggests that in order to avoid civil libertarian objections to government-sponsored displays of the Ten Commandments, the Roy Moores of the world should simply display "the Six Commandments, enunciated by Jesus himself." In Easterbrook's view, this avoids any objection from the ACLU, because Jesus' abridgment of the Decalogue omits all Commandments having reference to the Deity.

Easterbrook misconceives the objections to the 10 Commandments -- it is not their substantive content (although certainly that too is problematic with respect to the first four) to which the ACLU objects. Rather, it is their putative authorship and the government's seeming advocacy of that divine provenance that offends the Establishment Clause. Simply imagine Easterbrook's suggestion is taken up by Roy Moore after he becomes governor of Alabama, and he is deposed in the ensuing lawsuit:

Q: Governor Moore, how did you choose the Six Commandments for the State House display?

A: I did not choose them. These six are the Commandments chosen by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That is not to say that the Sextalogue -- or even the Decalogue itself -- is a dead bang loser, given the confused state of Establishment Clause jurisprudence. (We'll know more in June, when the Supreme Court hands down its judgment in McCreary County v. ACLU (link to ACLU merits brief) in June). But whatever the outcome of the case, Easterbrook's Sextalogue idea simply does not meet the objections to the Decalogue, much less overcome them.