Bad History: Another Ala. Official Thinks The Constitution Is Based On The Ten Commandments

There can be no doubt that putting up a religious display on government property is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. No matter what Tim Guffey claims, such a monument would send the message that non-believers are not welcome in Alabama.

An Alabama official wants to display the Ten Commandments outside a county courthouse, and he thinks he can justify the location of said monument by arguing that the famous list of biblical laws simply isn’t religious.

Instead, said Jackson County Commissioner Tim Guffey (R), he just wants people to know the supposed basis behind America’s most famous documents.

“If you look at the documents that was written (sic) – the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence – they are all stemmed from the word of God, from the Ten Commandments,” Guffey said last week in an interview with WHNT, the CBS affiliate in Huntsville.

In a separate interview with the news website AL.com, Guffey added that he’s “not going to push religion at all” with his proposed monument and thinks the Decalogue display would teach students the real story behind the founding of America.

“They don’t teach this at school anymore, and a person would have to go back and research and study each one of those men’s writings to find out that that’s what established them,” he said. “That’s what gave [the Founding Fathers] the inspiration to read the greatest Constitution this world has ever seen.”

Of course Guffey is off base all around. The U.S. Constitution makes zero mention of Jesus, God or any other religious deity. It also bears little resemblance to the Ten Commandments, which indisputably come from the Bible, an indisputably religious text. After all, U.S. law does not forbid adultery, nor can one be punished for failing to remember the Sabbath.

While it is rightfully illegal to murder, steal and in some cases lie, those are basic ideas that predate the inception of Judaism, Christianity and most other religions.    

Yes, the Declaration of Independence does mention God and rights that come from a creator. But what does that have to do with the Ten Commandments? And the fact that such language was left out of the Constitution, which is a governing document – unlike the Declaration – says that the Founding Fathers didn’t intend to base the United States on religious law.

It’s also incredibly delusional for Guffey to think that the Ten Commandments aren’t religious, adding him to a long line of fundamentalists who have argued that Christian symbols or concepts don’t really have anything to do with faith. If the Ten Commandments aren’t religious, then what are they? Guffey of course hasn’t said.

Most importantly, Guffey should know his idea is doomed because Alabama officials have tried this before – and failed. Most famously, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore put up a Decalogue display outside the state Supreme Court back in 2001. Moore was later ordered by a federal court to remove the monument, but he refused. So he was removed from the bench, along with the display, back in 2003. (Moore was reelected to his old position in 2012.)

There can be no doubt, outside of Guffey’s mind, that putting up a religious display on government property is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. No matter what Guffey claims, such a monument would send the message that non-believers are not welcome in Alabama.

Guffey said he hopes his proposed monument will teach school children about the Founding Fathers, but it seems Guffey is the one who needs to be taught a thing or two. Hopefully he’ll soon receive a very valuable lesson in the meaning of the First Amendment.