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The Ten Commandments in American History
The Third Commandment

This page is taken from America OnLine's "Separation of Church and State" Bulletin Board. (Jump works only for AOL subscribers.) I was told by one of the Secular Humanist contributors that Christianity had nothing to do with the legal system created by the Founding Fathers. My response:

Subject: Re: The Decalog & U.S. law -- Third Commandment
From: kevin4vft@aol.com (KEVIN4VFT)
Date: 09 Jan 1999 18:19:21 EST

In article <19990102133927.05500.00005977@ng-fa2.aol.com>, xaosjester@aol.com (XaosJester) writes:

>Kevin says: "All you asserted was that [all] other cultures prohibit the same
>things prohibited in the Bible. You did not prove that the Common Law
>was based on Chinese or Arabic law or the code of Hammurabi."
>I did not try to prove what common law was based on. What I did prove was
>that it was not based on the decalog.

Let's review his original post and see if there really is any "proof."

In article <19981229154902.11217.00003483@ng37.aol.com>, xaosjester@aol.com (XaosJester) writes:

>The claim by many christian accomadationists that the decalog is the basis of
>U.S. law is patently false and easily disproved.
>  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.
>No U.S. law can prevent me from taking the lords name in vain although COMBs
>rules do prevent me from doing so on their boards so please go to the ACLU
>boards for examples if you wish.

Yes, I'm sure there are many examples there.

And only a card-carrying member of the ACLU, wilfully ignorant of America's Christian history, could be unaware of the fact that the President of the United States was recently impeached for taking the Name of the Lord ("So help me, God") in vain.

Ashley Montagu, in his book The Anatomy of Swearing, noted that up until the 1960's "In England, and in every one of the United States, it [was] a legal offense to swear." The Constitution did not abolish these common law crimes.

The word "profanity" comes from the Latin, pro + fanum, against or outside the temple, thus, against God. When Clinton raised his right hand toward heaven, he was aligning himself with God. Rushdoony, in his mammoth study, Institutes of Biblical Law, contrasts oaths toward heaven with swearing which comes from below:

Godly oath-taking is a solemn and important religious act. Man aligns himself under God and in conformity to His righteousness[, promising] to abide by his world even as God abides by His Word. Godly swearing is a form of vow-taking. But ungodly swearing is a deliberate profanation of the purpose of the oath or vow; it is light use of it, a contemptuous use of it, to express contempt for God. But ungodly swearing cannot remain merely negative or hostile: it denies God as the ultimate, but it most posit another ultimate in God's place. Godly oaths seek their confirmation and strength from above; ungodly swearing looks below for its power. Hence, ungodly swearing finds its power, its "below," is sex and in excrement. The association is significant. [T]here is a religious progression in profanity: it moves from a defiance of God to an invocation of excrement and sex, and then perverted forms of sex. The profane society invokes, not God, but the world of the illicit, the obscene, and the perverted. pp.108-09

But the heart of the Third Commandment is not just a prohibition on juvenile, grade-school profanity, such as you might hear on an ACLU board but not on Christian message boards. In the Bible, the central emphasis is on perjury and oath-taking. The commandment

is normally seen, as Ingram states, "as a sort of good mannered objection to coarse or vulgar language." whereas it is "a prohibition against perjury, heresy, and lying." [T. Robert Ingram, The World Under God's Law, 1962, p.44] We have already seen the implications of swearing as obscenity. The law covers this and more. But the heart of the third commandment is in its nature as the foundation of a legal system.

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The Ten Commandments in American Legal History

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