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Congressman Wants Citizens of ALL Religions to Reflect on the Ten Commandments (Redux)

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Well, it's that time of year once again -- time for some theocratic member of Congress to push for a resolution proclaiming the first weekend of May "Ten Commandments Weekend," the timing of which is designed to coincide with the National Day of Prayer.

This year, the resolution comes from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). On April 7, Gohmert introduced H. Res. 211, a resolution "Expressing support for designation of the first weekend of May as Ten Commandments Weekend to recognize the significant contributions the Ten Commandments have made in shaping the principles, institutions, and national character of the United States."

Last year, the same resolution, with only a few very minor and entirely insignificant differences in wording, was introduced by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) as H. Res. 1175, and in previous years other "Ten Commandments Weekend" resolutions were introduced by Sam Brownback and Joe Lieberman in the Senate, and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) in the House.

Since Gohmert's H. Res. 211 is nearly identical to Broun's H. Res. 1175, I'm just going to repost what I wrote last year.

There is, however, one important difference between last year and this year that should be noted. While the Democrats controlled the committees, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the committee to whom resolutions like this are typically referred, did a good job of keeping these resolutions from even getting to the floor for a vote. But now, with the Republicans in control, and eight members of Rep. Randy Forbes's (R-VA) Congressional Prayer Caucus, including Louie Gohmert, on this committee, I'm nowhere near as confident that this resolution will be stalled as I was last year. After all, we just saw the House Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution order that Forbes's resolution "Reaffirming 'In God We Trust' as the official motto of the United States," and supporting "the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions" be sent to the floor for a voice vote.

So, here's my post from last year, updated only slightly to replace Broun's name with Gohmert's, and to change the resolution's number, date, cosponsors, and exact text to the current H. Res 211. Nothing else has changed except for the likelihood that this thing might actually be passed.

Congressman Wants Citizens of ALL Religions to Reflect on the Ten Commandments

Well, spring is in the air, and that can mean only one thing: it's time for a member of Congress to introduce a resolution proclaiming the first weekend of May "Ten Commandments Weekend." This time, the resolution comes from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

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These kinds of resolutions almost always contain a dose of Christian nationalist American history revisionism, and Gohmert's resolution, H. Res. 211, is no different. In fact, just like Sen. Sam Brownback in his 2008 Ten Commandments Weekend resolution, and Broun in his, Gohmert includes a quote from John Quincy Adams in one of his "Whereas" clauses: "Whereas the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, declared the Ten Commandments to be 'laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which ever professed any code of laws.'"

And, just like Brownback and Broun did in their resolutions, Gohmert omits the part of the quote in which Adams made it clear that many of the laws of the Old Testament were "adapted to that time only" and binding only on the ancient Jews. Here's what Adams actually wrote, in a letter to his son:

"The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes adapted to that time only, and to the particular circumstances of the nation to whom it was given; they could of course be binding upon them, and only upon them, until abrogated by the same authority which enacted them, as they afterward were by the Christian dispensation; but many others were of universal application -- laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which ever professed any code of laws."

(I think it might be relevant to note here that John Quincy Adams, although personally quite religious, took his presidential oath of office on a law book containing the Constitution rather than a Bible, because he was swearing that as president he would uphold the Constitution, not the Bible.)

Gohmert borrowed a few of the other historically questionable "Whereas" clauses from Brownback's 2008 resolution, but historical distortion is not the most outrageous thing about H. Res. 211. While the first two "resolves" of Gohmert's resolution are copied almost word for word from Brownback, the third is beefed up, calling for citizens of ALL religions to reflect on the Ten Commandments. Even Brownback didn't go this far.

Resolved, That the House of Representatives --

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(1) supports the designation of Ten Commandments Weekend;

(2) celebrates the significant role the Ten Commandments have played in the development of significant public and private institutions of the United States; and

(3) encourages citizens of all faiths and religious persuasions to reflect on the important impact that the Ten Commandments have had on the people and national character of the United States.

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Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and the author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History.

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