I overhead an acquaintance of mine, Jenna*, talking about her objections to the Ten Commandments monument being removed from the Oklahoma City Capitol grounds. I considered joining the conversation to give my take on the removal of religious monuments on pubic property. However, I didn’t feel I knew her well enough to walk over and join her conversation without being rude. Therefore, I am going to give my response here.
Referring to the Ten Commandments removal, Jenna said:
I do not understand why we aren’t allowed to practice their beliefs in public. Why have the rights of non-believers trumped the rights of believers?
Why aren’t we allowed to practice our beliefs in public?
You can and you do practice your faith publicly. Every Sunday when you drive to church, you are publicly practicing your faith. Since the church you attend has a big sign that lets everyone who reads it know it is a Christian church, I don’t know it could much more public than that. Not only are you not in danger of arrest for attending church, you might even be eligible to take a tax deduction for all of the money you donate to your church.
Each time you go out to dinner and you bow your heads to thank your god for your food you are practicing your religion in public. No one stops you or attempts to arrest you for practicing your religion.
Every time that you make a religiously related comment on Facebook or other social media, you have practiced your beliefs publicly. The government does not delete your comments about your beliefs or penalize you for posting them.
I do not understand why you believe that not allowing a stone monument listing the tenets of one religion, on land that is supposed to represent the entire population of the state, prevents you from practicing your religion. What the monument does do is show that a particular religion is preferred by the government over other religions and over non-belief. This can have a chilling affect on anyone who does not subscribe to the preferred religion. It may be hard for you to imagine since you do subscribe to the preferred religion. However, imagine if your state began to prefer the Muslim religion over other religions. Imagine they erected a stone monument of the Shahada and would not allow any other groups to erect their own monuments on the same grounds. Might you feel a little uncomfortable, as if you are considered a second class citizen in your own country? I suspect that the answer is yes. I think if that were to happen, you would be upset by it’s presence. If you can imagine this, you should have a glimpse into the way those of us who aren’t Christian (or possibly Jewish)** feel when the only monument allowed is a tribute to Christianity.
Why do the rights of non-believers trumped the rights of believers?
They don’t and they shouldn’t. The rights of non-believers should not trump the rights of rights of believers and the rights of believers should not trump the rights of non-believers. Everyone should be equal in the eyes of our government. You’ve hit on the very reason the monument is being removed. Having this religious monument and not allowing other monuments to be there is endorsement of one group over another. That’s the part that is wrong. If other monuments were also allowed to be there, there would be no need to remove this monument!
News article referencing the the monument removal:
USA Today News Article
10 Commandments removed from Okla. Capitol
*Some aspects of the event, including the name of the person discussed, have been altered slightly to retain the privacy of those involved.
**While both Jewish and Christian religious texts refer to the Ten Commandments, there are some variations among Christian sects and between Christian and Jewish religions in the way commandments are written.
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