Ten Commandments: Display in Schools
Should the Ten Commandments be displayed in schools?
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The State should be separated from the Church or churches.
In displaying a faith’s text it is effectively endorsing it. The state is secular: government schools may teach religion, but not preach it. It is clear that displaying the Commandments is intended not merely to inform students of their existence and meaning, but rather to instruct them in and promote Christian belief. Schools should be teaching children to think critically and form their own worldview rather than being forced to conform to a religion so early in life.
For those that believe, faith is an integral part of life. It is not separable from one’s working or studying life. Parents have a right to ensure that their children receive religious instruction.
How can a nation that says ‘in God we trust’ truly be called secular?
Morality and religion should not have to be linked.
Attempting to improve behaviour should not mean imposing a particular set of religious beliefs. We need to teach children to respect others of all faiths, not only those of our own religion.
Displaying a religious doctrine in order to teach children about morality is implying that religion is necessary to lead a moral life, when there are plenty of inspirational, moral people who are not religious.
Schools need to teach students morality for the modern world, and there’s no better source of moral values than the Ten Commandments. Many schools wishing to display the Commandments point to the moral emptiness of children such as those that massacred their fellow students at Columbine as a motivating factor.
Schools ought to teach moral values and if they do not, they are failing in their responsibility not only to educate young people but also to make them responsible and moral adults.
The Ten Commandments are exclusive to the Christian faith.
Many faiths are practised in the USA – it is an increasingly multicultural country. To single out one faith and raise it above all others is wrong. The only possible solution would be to feature the fundamental beliefs of all faiths on school walls – few schools are big enough for that!
Other faiths are positively insulted by the state adopting one faith in schools. The Commandment says, ‘thou shalt have no other Gods but me.’ What is a tax-paying Hindu US citizen to make of this?
The Ten Commandments contain a set of moral principles that are universal. The Commandments are ideal tools for teaching moral values. Their principles can be appreciated by those of other faiths. The vast majority of students in schools wishing to display them are either Christian or without faith – neither are (nor should be) offended by their display.
A display would be a substitute for real Christian instruction.
Even if one is a Christian, why would one want the Ten Commandments displayed on a wall, when they ought instead to be in the curriculum? Many schools might adopt their purely symbolic display as a substitute for proper, rigorous Christian instruction.
Displaying the Commandments and teaching Christian beliefs and philosophy are not mutually exclusive, but some acknowledgement of religion's power and wisdom is better than none at all. In any case, America was founded by God-fearing people who viewed their actions through the prism of the Ten Commandments, and based their legal system upon it. Even those people today who do not share such beliefs must accept their importance in our historical, cultural and legal heritage. Displaying the Commandments acknowledges their importance to our society.
Religious instruction should be taught inside the home, not in public schools.
It is unlikely that refusal to display the religious text will result in the drastic action of parents withdrawing a child from school. Ultimately, parents have a right to home school or educate their children wherever they wish – if this means they exercise that option, then so be it. Much home schooling is dedicated and successful.
Refusing to allow the display of the Commandments will ensure that some Christian parents will take their children out of school. This will encourage extremism and sectarianism, as Christians isolate themselves from the community. In many circumstances it will lead to worse education for the children concerned.
The Ten Commandments are out of date in modern society.
The state would be hypocritical to supposedly endorse a Christian ethic, when it does so much that it contrary to it. It opens its shops (and its schools hold sporting events) on the Sabbath, though we are told by the Commandment to respect it. It executes people, though we are told that vengeance is the Lord’s, and ‘thou shalt not kill.’
The basic moral rules of the Ten Commandments provide clear guidance on right and wrong. Issues like Sunday trading are much more peripheral. There’s no problem with the death penalty, as the state has a right to execute people, and individuals do not – but that’s a different debate.
There is no 'agreed' set of Ten Commandments.
If the Commandments are to be displayed, which version will be used, of the three in the Bible? Which interpretation – the Protestant, the Catholic, or the Jewish? The equivalent passages from the Qur’an? How will this be decided? Will denominational schools that hold alternate versions have to display a (not yet agreed) ‘standard’ version? It is hardly a marginal issue. The original Hebrew says “thou shalt not murder,” not “thou shalt not kill.” Every time the Ten Commandments are displayed, someone is making a choice – a choice about which social, linguistic, cultural interpretation to favour. Who will (or can) make this choice on behalf of all the peoples of the nation, as represented by their children?
This is an attempt to confuse whether there is a right to show the Ten Commandments, with the issues involved after that right has been accepted as existing. Even if the practicalities prove as difficult as the proposition says, that’s an irrelevance as to whether one is allowed to show them or not. That having been said, it is very unlikely that it would be a complicated business, anyway. For a start, why should a standard version have to be displayed - couldn't schools or school boards agree on the most appropriate for their own communities?
What do you think?