In the wake of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling to remove the Ten Commandments monument erected at the state capitol, some have characterized the decision as anti-Christian or anti-religion.
To the surprise of many, I am an ordained Baptist minister who joined the ACLU lawsuit as a plaintiff challenging the Ten Commandments display. I sincerely believe it is not the place of the government to co-opt this sacred scripture for political purposes.
As a Christian, the Ten Commandments are sacred to me, and that’s exactly why I felt compelled to take action to protect them. The Ten Commandments are a covenant between God and people of faith. They mention God six times and refer to “the Lord” seven times. They are obviously religious in nature. And, indeed, they have great religious significance for me and many other Christians.
The Oklahoma government’s display of the Ten Commandments is particularly offensive because officials are pretending to be doing it for secular reasons, hoping to evade the ban in the state constitution prohibiting the government from promoting religion. But erecting a plainly religious monument under sham secular pretenses serves only to trivialize the holiness of sincere religious covenants. It undermines religion by negating the significance of the most sacred symbols of our religious language.
I stand firmly for the historic Baptist tradition advocating universal religious liberty and am proud to join the ACLU in working to secure robust enforcement of the separation of religion and government. Eternal vigilance regarding separation of church and state is good for both the government and for religion. As the U.S. Supreme Court explained, “religion is too personal, too sacred, too holy, to permit its being ‘unhallowed by a civil magistrate.”
When I heard that the Oklahoma Supreme Court recognized this and ordered officials to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the capitol grounds, one word came to mind: Amen.