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William Treumann, Published June 10 2009

Limit Commandments display to those in accord with the law

As one of the original litigants who requested the removal of the graven image of the Ten Commandments from Fargo city property, it occurs to me that perhaps we should compromise, limiting the display on tax-supported property to those commandments that are in accord with the rule of law. Although they are not numbered in the Bible, I will do so in the order in which they appear in Exodus.

1. There can be no legal requirement that a particular God be worshipped, so this commandment should not be displayed. Allah must not be subordinated by law to Jehovah.

2. The prohibition against graven images should be omitted, especially because many Christians, especially Roman Catholics, display a realistic three-dimensional graven image, no mere bas-relief, of a man suffering excruciating pain.

3. Because there is no law prohibiting blasphemy, No. 3 should be scratched.

4. Although there are laws prohibiting stores and movie theaters from being open for business on the morning of the Christian sabbath, the exemption for the rest of this holy day requires the exclusion of the corresponding commandment.

5. The requirement to honor one’s parents seems worthy enough, but no exceptions are allowed. Recently a man killed his pregnant girlfriend because he did not want to pay child support. A daughter was delivered alive and healthy. If she grows up, I think few would demand that she honor her father, hence unless exemptions are provided in a footnote, No. 5 should be omitted.

6. The prohibition against killing has support in law, but Exodus 22:18 opposes it unequivocally. Also, we should consider the fact that young people can be drafted into the armed forces for the purpose of killing enemy soldiers.

7. There is no law against adultery, so we should delete No. 7. King David was a man after God’s “own heart,” even though he coveted Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, before he committed adultery with her and caused the death of her husband, thereby breaking three of the commandments. Breaking three, not just two, commandments in such a short period of time, especially by a man who remained in God’s favor, is worth noting.

8. The rule against stealing could be retained. However, Numbers 31 and I Samuel 15:3 require large-scale exceptions.

9. The prohibition against bearing false witness should be displayed if this can be interpreted as limited to sworn testimony in court and in official investigations.

10. The admonition not to covet one’s neighbor’s slaves and other possessions cannot be a legal requirement. Also, because violating this is an aspect of keeping up with the Joneses, widespread adherence would lead to a devastating depression.

Treumann, a former Fargo resident, lives in St. Paul.