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The Ten Commandments in American History
The Ninth 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 -- Ninth Commandment
From: kevin4vft@aol.com (KEVIN4VFT)
Date: 09 Jan 1999 18:19:02 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.
>Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
>Telling the truth is the basis of all law systems.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is not true. And the Founding Fathers didn't agree with it even if it is true. And even if other religions prohibit perjury, how does this prove that law in the United States was not based on the Ninth Commandment?

It is a matter of historical record that it was.

It is time that the citizens of this state [California] fully realized that the Biblical injunction "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour," has been incorporated into the law of this state, and that every person before any competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any of the cases in which such an oath may by law be administered, wilfully and contrary to such oath, states as true any material matter which he knows to be false, is guilty of perjury, and is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than one nor more than fourteen years.
People v. Rosen, 20 Cal.App.2d 445, 66 P.2d 1208, 1210 (1937)(J.McComb)

The Founding Fathers would not have agreed with the contention that an atheistic law system could succeed.

Now you can say the Founding Fathers were ignorant, superstitious, or even bigoted. I don't care. Just don't go saying that the Founders intended by their constitution to give atheists religious freedom to testify in court or hold office, and certainly that the Founders intended to give the federal judiciary the power to overrule states which decided to continue excluding atheists.

In his Farewell Address, Washington said:

Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Rufus King explained:

[In o]ur laws . . . by the oath which they prescribe, we appeal to the Supreme Being so to deal with us hereafter as we observe the obligation of our oaths. The Pagan world were and are without the mighty influence of this principle which is proclaimed in the Christian system -- their morals were destitute of its powerful sanction while their oaths neither awakened the hopes nor fears which a belief in Christianity inspires. (NY Convention, Oct 30, 1821)

As a result, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story observed, "infidels and pagans were banished from the halls of justice as unworthy of credit." (William W. Story, ed., Life and Letters of Joseph Story (Boston: Little & Brown, 1851) vol. II, pp. 89.)

Stephen Epstein, a staunch opponent of the Religious Right, writes in the Colombia Law Review:

It is, therefore, not surprising that the South Carolina Supreme Court is reported to have noted in 1848 that

"[i]n the courts over which we preside, we daily acknowledge Christianity as the most solemn part of our administration. A Christian witness, having no religious scruples against placing his hand upon the Book, is sworn upon the holy Evangelists -- the books of the New Testament, which testify of our Savior's birth, life, death and resurrection; this is so common a matter that it is little thought of as an evidence of the part which Christianity has in the common law."[168]

In 1828, the Connecticut Supreme Court "ruled that disbelievers in accountability to God or in an afterlife were not competent witnesses."[169] Indeed, as late as 1939, five states and the District of Columbia excluded the testimony of those professing a disbelief in God, and, in a dozen or so additional states, the testimony of nonbelievers was subject to attack on the ground that one's credibility was impaired by irreligion or a lack of belief in a deity.[170]

Epstein cites a couple of cases which held that Chinese were prohibited from testifying in court because there is no concept of truth in that culture (this was 1800's, before significant westernization of china's law, which now includes western concepts of truth, see Silvig, "The Oath" 68 Yale L.J. 1329/1527, 1554 (1959) ). Remember that in many eastern cultures "truth" is "maya" (i.e., illusion). See also Colin Turnbull, The Mountain People, describing the inhumane and immoral culture of the Ik, who lack any concept of truth except as personal utility.

It is interesting to note that in 1901, the United States Supreme Court upheld a federal statute requiring that the testimony of Chinese witnesses, in some cases, be corroborated by white men due to "'loose notions entertained by [Chinese] witnesses of the obligation of an oath.'"
Li Sing v. United States, 180 U.S. 486, 494 (1901) (quoting Chae Chan Ping v. United States, 130 U.S. 581, 598 (1889)) (citation omitted).

It's on my website at http://members.aol.com/TestOath/21atheists.htm

Marxist law systems are certainly not based on truth. Telling lies is an official instrument of state policy.

The corrupting effects of the French Revolution have evidenced the differences between Anglo-American law, with its strong Biblical foundation, and France, with its Secular Humanist roots:

"Lying gets a good press"

The Politics of Lying
French See Danger in Too Much Truth

PARIS - ''Truths!'' Charles de Gaulle is supposed to have shouted. ''Did you think I could have created a (Free French) government against the English and the Americans with truths? You make History with ambition, not with truths.''

The quote is from a new book by Thierry Pfister, a French editor, who uses it to illustrate his thesis that for the French mind, lying in politics is the norm, and that anyone trying to attach a standard of truthfulness to a politician's behavior is naive and worthy of contempt. The general, he suggests, said as much.

This is part of Mr. Pfister's explanation of why he believes the French, and particularly France's Úlites, do not understand how President Bill Clinton could be impeached. He says that the French elite is terrified by the case's implications for its privileges, and that this is the reason, much more than in other democratic countries, that the yearlong reaction here to the impeachment process has been one of ridicule, self-satisfied righteousness, and feigned concern for the future of the United States.

For the French elite, Mr. Pfister maintains, ''there are virtually no consequences for lying. It's O.K.''

Certainly nowhere in or outside the United States has the handling of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal been held up as a model of civic procedure. But in France, the circumstances are seen, Mr. Pfister says, as an ongoing means to contrast ''a reactionary American puritanism against progressive French tolerance.''

This week, while CNN's commentators were talking about the solemnity of the opening public proceedings in the Senate, the anchorman on the France 3 state television news at 11 P.M. was describing it as ''a lamentable show.'' In a Page One editorial accompanying the Clinton trial, Le Figaro cried out, ''Wake up, Tocqueville, they've gone mad. When you look at the distressing spectacle that American democracy is offering, you say to yourself that the man who described it best must not be very comfortable up there in the heavens.''

For Mr. Pfister, who served as spokesman for former Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy in President Francois Mitterrand's first Socialist government and as a writer for Le Monde and Le Nouvel Observateur magazine, there is more political lying in France than in other democracies because its democratic culture is weaker. In this context, he said in an interview, a historical climate of lies involving the reaction of the French to the Nazi occupation, the French colonial war in Algeria, and the corruption of the Mitterrand years, makes Bill Clinton's vulnerability for alleged lying under oath an almost otherworldly matter here.

''That's why the situation is incomprehensible for French public opinion,'' Mr. Pfister wrote. ''Punishing lies - what naivete!''

Among its officials, ''France has a cult of lying,'' Mr. Pfister insists.

''With us, lying gets a good press,'' he said. ''Some see it as a Latin characteristic, others as the sign of a superior civilization.'' He said, ''Attempting to limit its use makes you look ridiculous. Playing Don Quixote is the equivalent of confronting standard social usage, discussed from time to time, but never really brought into question.''

No particular fan of an American model, Mr. Pfister describes the investigation of Mr. Clinton by Kenneth Starr as partisan, inspired by the right wing of the Republican Party, and using inquisition-like methods.

But he goes after the notion that there was some kind of elegance or refinement in the political circumstances that allowed Mr. Mitterrand to keep his double family life from public knowledge, at the same time that he published innocuous health bulletins that hid his developing cancer. The French were treated not so much as citizens, but infantile subjects, the writer said.

If it was fine that the French hardly seemed disturbed on learning about Mr. Mitterrand's second family after his death, Mr. Pfister argued ''it is nonetheless unacceptable that the news was delivered to them so late.''

''The reality is that it is this contempt, this institutional dissimulating that is being defended by everyone running to Bill Clinton's defense.''

Mr. Pfister singled out the Socialist president of the foreign affairs commission of the National Assembly, Jack Lang, as an example of the French public and media figures who were expressing shock about a so-called re-birth of McCarthyism in the United States, while their concerns, he said, were obviously elsewhere.

''It's not the drift of the American system that concerns them, but the risk of contamination. Suppose they were required tomorrow to give explanations?''

''The Americans, British, Germans, Spanish, they all know that things can turn around against them, and that exercising responsibilities involves risks. Explanations are demanded of them, even on their private lives if they become controversial. That's the price that Clinton is paying because it's the price of democracy.''

Mr. Pfister's book, ''Lettre Ouverte aux Gardiens du Mensonge'' (Open Letter to the Keepers of the Lie) is published by Albin Michel. International Herald Tribune, Jan. 8, 1999

America's legal system was based on the Ten Commandments and all of God's Law.

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