One Last Rant Against the Extremists, Before They Fade Back into Their Usual Obscurity

Well, it looks like the Ten Commandments monument fiasco is finally over. Well, with the exception of a last-ditch restraining order that the hangers-on are trying to get through, but it’s unlikely that’ll go anywhere. My initial observation is that I’ll have to find something else to mock mercilessly. No problem there — I seem to be finding lots of things that fit the bill on a fairly regular basis.

But I did want to make one last comment on this case, before it completely disappears from memory (which I’ve no doubt it will very shortly). I’m seeing a lot of pundits (particularly the right-wing Internet variety) shouting that this monument is no different than the depiction of the Commandments in the Supreme Court, and should therefore be just as protected from removal. First of all, the depictions (and there are two of them) in the Supreme Court don’t truly display the Commandments, but rather Moses, tablets in hand; the sculpture on the outside of the building includes Moses as just one example among many so-called “lawgivers,” while the interior display does have some writing — in Hebrew — but by no means the complete text. Big difference — the Supreme Court displays are clearly intended to showcase the establishment of law, and in context, the Commandments are but one instance.

Second, there’s the logistical issue: Moore’s “golden calf” of a display, heavy though it may be, is a separate object, whereas the friezes in the Supreme Court are integral parts of the building’s construction, making removal much more of an effort, therefore — like it or not — requiring a much higher legal hurdle be overcome. On top of that, there’s the so-called “ceremonial deism” argument, to which Moore can make no claim; I don’t agree with the argument, but legal tradition has established its validity.

But even so, the issue of intent remains, and this is where the pundits really seem to be showcasing their idiocy. The rallying cry is that intent is irrelevant, since the result is identical: A display of the Ten Commandments. End of story. I hate to break it to you simpletons, but in the American justice tradition, intent does matter — a great deal. Roy Moore put up his monument with the explicit purpose of promoting a particular religion (or, at best, a particular set of religions). If we are to argue that the intent behind an action is irrelevant, and only the results matter, then we must similarly concede — just to pick an example — that there is no difference between manslaughter and first-degree murder; or even between a fatal automobile accident and serial killing. (The same argument holds true for the removal of the “under God” phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance, which was inserted expressly to promote religion in the face of “godless” Communism.)

Hey, if they’re willing to concede the “intent is irrelevant” point across the board, then I’ll grant them the benefit in terms of consistency. Otherwise, they remain a gaggle of buffoons whose arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Mock away. Seriously, try it. It’s amazingly easy, and a lot of fun to boot.


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