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Mike Huckabee on the Ten Commandments: Does America Need the Decalogue?

Mike Huckabee Says the Ten Commandments are the Basis for American Law

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A key issue for the Christian Right is installing Ten Commandments monuments and displays in public buildings. The purpose is to unambiguously link the Ten Commandments with American law, government, and politics. Mike Huckabee endorses Ten Commandments in public schools to teach students that their country is based on the Ten Commandments. Of course, linking American government with the Ten Commandments necessarily entails linking it with the Bible and, in the minds of Christian Nationalists, with Christianity itself — even though Christianity isn't based on the Ten Commandments.

However, the Ten Commandments does represent more authoritarian, restrictive, and even repressive form of the god of western monotheistic traditions. This is precisely the sort of deity which Christian Nationalists like Mike Huckabee tend to focus on when promoting their political agenda — and agenda which is largely about controlling people's personal behavior. In this, the Ten Commandments is regarded as the best list of rules for controlling behavior.

In his book Character Makes a Difference, Mike Huckabee writes:

As a teenager, I often would hear my pastor say, "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." Corporate leaders, political leaders, church leaders, and families are at their best when they are motivated by principles.

What are some principles worth living by? Ask a roomful of people, and you will get a roomful of answers. There already exists a code of principles established thousands of years ago & adhered to by people from a variety of religious backgrounds. It has been accepted as a basis for appropriate behavior. Fortunately, no one has copyrighted the Ten Commandments.

Although some attempts have been made to prohibit these principles from being displayed, they have survived through the ages. They are the foundation of our laws and commonly accepted codes of human behavior.

The Ten Commandments are divided into two sections--the vertical laws dealing with man's relationship with God and the horizontal laws dealing with man's relationship with others.

Here Mike Huckabee hits most of the popular talking points used by Christian Nationalists. First, he alleges without evidence that the Ten Commandments are "the foundation of our laws," as if the entire history of law and politics hadn't been thoroughly infused with secular values and philosophy. Indeed, there is very little in the Ten Commandments which can be found in our modern laws in any way shape or form. The claim is thus little more than a lie, but it's a politically convenient lie for the Christian Right.

Second, Mike Huckabee makes a point of referencing efforts to "prohibit these principles from being displayed," but he is careful not to make any reference to the context of such efforts. His very broad generalization could in theory mean that people oppose any display of the Ten Commandments, though private displays on private property are not only legal but are not challenged. Challenges are made to public displays on public property which send the message that this religious text and these religious beliefs are somehow favored, endorsed, encouraged, or privileged by the government.

Mike Huckabee may personally believe that the Ten Commandments are an appropriate guide to personal behavior, but the government has no authority to promote these particular religious beliefs as any sort of guide to any sort of behavior. Doing so would entail promoting a particular conception of a particular god and particular ways humans are expected to relate to this god. This would mean taking the side of certain Christian sects against all other Christians, as well as against Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, adherents of every other religion, and of course atheists as well.

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