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Thou Shalt Not

Thou Shalt Not


Just one more reason to be glad I don’t live in Louisiana. Governor Jeff Landry just signed a law requiring that the Ten Commandments be posted in every public school classroom. He accompanied the law’s signing with the snickering comment, “Can’t wait to get sued!”

I’ll bet.

The religofascist Republican Party just loves this nearly failsafe technique. Legislate or litigate nearly any issue, no matter how absurdly unconstitutional or nonsensical, and know they can depend on their friends in high places, aka the Supreme Court. Governor Landry knows that any challenge will wind its way up to the heavenly judicial body and the conservative/devout majority will uphold the law. Want to wager?

Sam and Martha-Ann, joined by Clarence, Ginny and Harlan, the resident beer-lover, the prim Ms. Coney Barrett and the proper Justice Gorsuch will prevail, even if the slightly less radical Chief Justice waffles a bit. In the event you don’t have the time, interest or stomach to follow the case and read the majority opinion, here it is in CliffsNotes advance version:

The Ten Commandments are just traditional and ceremonial, like “In God We Trust,” “Jesus Loves You,” “God Bless America,” “Under God” and other stuff that belongs in a Christian nation’s classrooms and if you don’t like it you can go sit in the hallway or move to Cuba.

When the regressive right wanted Affirmative Action outlawed, they found just the guy to manufacture a grievance, assemble an amici mob, feign harm and trot it before the disciples so they could zap it.

Decades of right-wing scheming finally bore fruit when Leonard Leo and his posse finally crafted a court that took away women’s health autonomy in the Dobbs decision. It is worth noting that Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett all lied under oath during confirmation hearings, thereby violating one of the Commandments, when they pledged fealty to legal precedent.

As Clarence Thomas ominously offered in his Dobbs concurrence, the Supreme Court “should reconsider” its past rulings codifying rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. He was the only one to openly acknowledge what the theocourtocracy desires. They all await the chance to unravel a few more human rights. It’s kind of what you might expect when a majority on the court is Catholic. Even the “somewhat-reasonable- for-a-Pope” Francis recently showed his true colors (sorry Cyndi) when using a disgusting homophobic slur.

There are few more apt applications of the boiling frog metaphor. As it goes, put a frog in boiling water and it will leap right out. Put it in tepid water, gradually turn up the heat and it will passively submit. We Americans are in the “passively submit” phase of our transition to a de facto theocracy.

As a life-long, self-described atheist, I’ve pleasantly enough accepted the symbolic presence of Christianity in most aspects of life: The Pledge in school, the currency I use, the ceremonies I attend, the National Prayer Breakfast, the hand-on-bible oath convention, the God Bless America at sporting events, the apparently obligatory public thanks to God given by athletes . . . it could be a long, long list. I’ve only been made to feel slightly unwelcome, but as a privileged, straight white man, it’s a pretty minor irritation. For gay and trans folks, the concerns are much more than minor irritation. Their rights and humanity are at risk.

There are many things to be concerned about these days. A second Trump term will surely put a few more dents in our democratic republic. There are platoons of well-armed bozos ready to take to the streets if he loses. Sort of a heads they win tails we lose situation.

Despite these real concerns, the majority of Americans have not lost their minds – including some who will cast ballots with one hand and hold their noses with the other. I don’t believe most Americans will drift complacently into autocracy. But the incursion of religion into public life is met with less concern. Public funding of religious schools is just one piece of a broad strategy to marginalize secularism and craft a more Christian nation.

The considerable harm done by re-electing Trump can be undone in subsequent elections. But the harm done by a religofascist court will take decades to reverse, if possible at all.

We should be more worried than we appear to be.


Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson is a retired educator, author, and newspaper columnist. He and his wife Wendy moved to Erie from Manhattan in 2017 to be near family. He was a serious violinist and athlete until a catastrophic mountain bike accident in 2020. He now specializes in gratitude and kindness.

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