The Instigator
XVIII18
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
21MolonLabe
Con (against)
Winning
15 Points

The 10 commandments newly set up on the grounds of the Oklahoma City capitol building is illegal

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
21MolonLabe
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/9/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,156 times Debate No: 68059
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (9)
Votes (3)

 

XVIII18

Pro

I will be taking the stance that having the Christian 10 commandments now clearly visible to all on the Oklahoma City capitol grounds is illegal and unconstitutional under federal law.

Con will be arguing the opposite: That the 10 commandments being newly placed here are constitutional under Federal law.

The first round will be acceptance.
Debate Round No. 1
XVIII18

Pro

There have been numerous court cases over the years over very similar contexts allowing for us to understand why this would be considered to be unconstitutional under Federal law. This statue was enacted by the "Ten Commandments Monument Display Act" and directed the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission to "permit and arrange for the placement on the State Capitol grounds of a suitable monument displaying the Ten Commandments."

As seen in the supreme court case: Lemon v. Kurtzman, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971) the Supreme court created the Lemon Test. The purpose of the Lemon test is to determine when a law has the effect of establishing religion which would be deemed unconstitutional. The test has served as the foundation for many of the Court's post-1971 establishment clause rulings. The three parts are as follows:

First, the statute/law must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."

-The state assembly of Oklahoma is clearly violating the first part of the lemon test as this is NOT a secular legislative act as it allows for the certain teaching of a certain religion to be placed on display.

-The state assembly of Oklahoma is clearly violating the second part of the lemon test as this is clearly an attempt to advance the teachings of Christianity in a place that is supposed to be secular.

-The state assembly of Oklahoma is clearly violating the third part of the lemon test as it is placing a specific religious text on government property where it is supposed to be purely secular. This is then relating a certain religion to the government again fostering "an excessive government entanglement with religion" which is unconstitutional and goes against the lemon test.

A very similar case arose in Florida with the case American Atheists v. Bradford County Fl. In this case, Bradford County, Florida unveiled a five-foot-tall, six-ton granite monument to the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County Courthouse. This monument was a gift from the group "Community Men's Fellowship" and cost $22,000. This ultimately ended with the Community Men's Fellowship settling out of court and American Atheists winning the case.

There are numerous if not hundreds of other cases in which the Lemon Test has been applied in a similar fashion and ending with similar acts being unconstitutional.
21MolonLabe

Con

I would like to start off by thanking my opponent for hosting this debate.

The Court has always cited previous cases as justification for its ruling. I will use previous cases to prove that the X Commandments being displayed in front of a State House is in fact Constitutional.


In order to pass the Lemon Test, whatever it is that is before the Court must have a "secular meaning." The Lemon Test was created in 1971. I will use two cases after the Test was created for my support.

This case is almost exactly the same scenario as what we are debating. In the case Van Orden V Perry, The Texas State Capitol Building had the 10 Commandments displayed in front of it. When it was brought before the Supreme Court they ruled that it was in fact constitutional. The holding was this: Although the Ten Commandments are religious, "simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with religious doctrine DOES NOT RUN AFOUL WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE." (Emphasis Added) It also passed the the Lemon Test, as it was not purely religious.

In the Case
Lynch v Donnley, the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island displayed a Nativity Scene in a park, in the center of the local shopping district. Someone took this to the Supreme Court, which ruled that it was Constitutional for a city to display the Nativity Scene. In a time when people are to busy preparing for Christmas, they have any time to remember where the holiday came from. The Court's Holding was this: The Constitution "Affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility towards any." It goes on to say that it was simply displaying where the holiday that we know today came from. It passed the Lemon Test because it had a secular value.

The public opinion is obviously in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments, as it was privately funded. The
PEOPLE not the government funded it. Since it was privately funded, what is to keep other religious groups from doing the same thing?

Our Nation has had a long history of recognizing the Ten Commandments. It was James Madison, the Father of our Constitution, that once said, "We have staked the future of all of our political institutions... upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
As Patrick Henry once said, 'It cannot be emphasized to strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists. but by Christians; not by religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" And in
Updegraph V. Commonwealth, in 1826, a phrase in the Court's holding,, you can find the phrase, "Christianity is part of the common law." This gives the Ten Commandments a historical value, not necessarily a religious value.There are many other cases that support the holding that the 10 Commandments are apart of the common law.

Now I will show how this case that we are currently debating is not in violation of the Lemon Test.

1. The "Ten Commandments Monument Display Act" has the secular value of honoring a national tradition. Since the 10 Commandments have long been part of the common law, it gives them a historic value. Thus, it is not in violation of the first part of the Lemon Test.

2. It's primary purpose is neither to advance religion or to inhibit religion, rather it is to identify the "moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and the State of Oklahoma."

3. Excessive Government Entanglement with religion would include: Funding and promoting a religion or its teachings. As previously stated, the 10 Commandments display was privately funded. Since, as stated before, The 10 Commandments are an important part of our government's morals, it is simply stating what the government believes to be good morals. It is not necessarily promoting a religion.

Now on to how it is Constitutional.

The 10th Amendment gives certain "rights" to the states. Is it not a State's rights to display the 10 Commandments so long as it does so in a non-partial manner and non-discriminatory way?

Other religious groups have petitioned to have their symbols displayed, however they do not have a secular meaning. They want their symbols displayed in order to promote their religion. If other religious symbols or text had a secular reason for being displayed, then they to could be displayed.

The Myth Of Separation- David Barton
http://www.oyez.org...
http://www.oyez.org...
http://www.ecapitol.net...
http://billofrightsinstitute.org...
http://nationalparalegal.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
XVIII18

Pro

The cases you specifically point out are refuted later on by other Supreme court cases. These Supreme Court I will point out are cases that pertain to this particular event in much more clear context.

The Case Lynch V Donnley which was decided in 1984 was again brought up later by another supreme court case: County of Allegheny V. American Civil Liberties Union in 1989. In the 1989 court case the supreme court deemed: "a complex and fragmented decision, the majority held that the County of Allegheny violated the Establishment Clause by displaying a creche in the county courthouse, because the "principle or primary effect" of the display was to advance religion within the meaning of Lemon v. Kurtzman, when viewed in its overall context. Therefore, the Supreme Court did in fact refer to the Lemon test when deciding whether the case violated the establishment clause under VERY similar circumstances and did indeed violate the establishment clause. There is also strong emphasis on the context of the monument / statue and whether it is proven to be under secular means or not. I will further this in the coming paragraphs (7)

Your second case: Van Orden V. Perry, was also refuted by McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union. In this case, there was a Ten Commandments display at the McCreary County courthouse in Whitley City, Kentucky and a Ten Commandments display in two other locations. The Supreme Court ruled on June 27, 2005, in a 5-4 decision, that the displays were unconstitutional. However, The same day, the Court handed down the 5-4 decision in Van Orden v. Perry with the opposite outcome. The "swing vote" in the both cases was Justice Stephen Breyer.

So, we must find why justice Stephen Breyer essentially flipped sides on very similar cases the same day: He stated in a concurrent opinion,

"The case before us is a borderline case. It concerns a large granite monument bearing the text of the Ten Commandments located on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. On the one hand, the Commandments' text undeniably has a religious message, invoking, indeed emphasizing, the Deity. On the other hand, focusing on the text of the Commandments alone cannot conclusively resolve this case. Rather, to determine the message that the text here conveys, we must examine how the text is used. And that inquiry requires us to consider the context of the display."(1)

So, it is essentially how the 10 commandments come about and how it is located that decides the outcome of its constitutionality. In Van Orden V. Perry, the monument was donated by a secular group and thereby seen to come about under non-religious terms. However, in the McCreary County case, on the same day, "the court upheld the lower courts' rulings, noting that a pastor was present to testify to the certainty of the existence of God at the dedication of one of the displays. Because there was a pastor present attempting to testify to the existence of God it became clear that this was not a secular display of history, but rather a religious move and thereby violating the Lemon Test." (2)

Now, we can decide if there are any religious sentiments regarding the case in Oklahoma City. In Oklahoma City, the state has not allowed any other religions to post their own statues alongside the 10 commandments hence CLEARLY favoring the Christian religion. (3) (4).

Using these court cases and the two clear separate outcomes, the actions of the Oklahoma City statehouse have shown favoritism to Christianity as seen similarly under the court case McCreary county V. American Civili Liberties Union. Since the statehouse is blocking other religions from posting their own religious statues this clearly shows favoritism towards Christianity. The 10 commandments are also not in the context of history but rather stand in isolation giving no historical link value to the 10 commandments on the statehouse lawn which is in contrast to the Van Orden V. Perry case. I will further this point in the paragraphs below.

"The 10th Amendment gives certain "rights" to the states. Is it not a State's rights to display the 10 Commandments so long as it does so in a non-partial manner and non-discriminatory way?"

As I have stated earlier, this is in fact a discriminatory way as the statehouse is not allowing other religions to post their own religious statues and beliefs on moral conduct.

To further my point, read the following as stated by Justice Breyer on why he flip-flopped on the two cases. This is in particular to why he feels it would be legal to have the 10 commandments in a government place:

"1. The monument's 40-year history on the Texas state grounds indicates that nonreligious aspects of the tablets' message predominate.
2. The group that donated the monument, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, is a private civic (and primarily secular) organization. Who, while interested in the religious aspect of the Ten Commandments, sought to highlight the Commandments' role in shaping civic morality as part of that organization's efforts to combat juvenile delinquency.
3. The Eagles' consulted with a committee composed of members of several faiths in order to find a nonsectarian text " an act which underscores the group's ethics-based motives.
4. The tablets, as displayed on the monument, prominently acknowledge that the Eagles donated the display.
5. The physical setting of the monument suggests little or nothing of the sacred.
6. The monument sits in a large park containing 17 monuments and 21 historical markers, all designed to illustrate the "ideals" of those who settled in Texas and of those who have lived there since that time.
7. The setting does not readily lend itself to meditation or any other religious activity.
8. The setting does provide a context of history and moral ideals.
9. The larger display (together with the display's inscription about its origin) communicates to visitors that the State sought to reflect moral principles, illustrating a relation between ethics and law that the State's citizens, historically speaking, have endorsed. That is to say, the context suggests that the State intended the display's moral message " an illustrative message reflecting the historical "ideals" of Texans " to predominate. (5)

Therefore, justice Breyer stated that since all of the above occured, it would be legal in the case Van Orden V. Perry. However, in Oklahoma City, for point 1, the 10 commandments have only been there for 4 years and since their creation have been opposed clearly negating this point. For point three, Oklahoma City did not consult other religious officials in fact, they are denying the right for them to post their own statues. For point 6, the 10 commandments stand IN ISOLATION. In fact, one of the displays was deemed unconstiutional by the Supreme Court in the case just due to the fact that " it was presenting the Ten Commandments in isolation" (Refer to link six) and were therefore unable to prove that it was placed under historical contexts. I cannot emphasize this point enough. For point 8, there is again, no mentioning or further examples of the 10 commandments in context to history on the Oklahoma state lawn. Therefore, since the 10 commandments in Oklahoma city do not follow or come close to all of the above points it can be inferred that this case would fall under the court case McCreary county V. American Civil Liberties Union and be deemed unconstitutional.

1. http://www.law.cornell.edu....
2. https://supreme.justia.com...
3. http://www.koco.com...
4. http://atheists.org...
5. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com...
6. http://www.oyez.org...
7. http://www.oyez.org...
21MolonLabe

Con

I would again like to thank my opponent for hosting this debate.

I do not have a lot of time, so I will make this short.

Pro claims that the cases that I pointed out are later "refuted" by other Supreme Courts. They might have been refuted, but not overturned.

Starting with Allegheny v. ACLU.

While Lynch v Donnley and Allegheny v ACLU are similar, there is one major difference. A difference that Pro conveniently forgot to address.
In Allegheny v ACLU, there were some words that were prominently displayed above it, that were part of the display, saying, "Glory to God for the birth of Jesus Christ." THAT is why the Court ruled it as not having a secular meaning. Had the display stood alone, as in Lynch v. Donnley, it would not have been ruled as promoting a religion.

Now to McCreary v. ACLU.

Pro says "In Van Orden V. Perry, the monument was donated by a secular group and thereby seen to come about under non-religious terms. However, in the McCreary County case, on the same day, "the court upheld the lower courts' rulings, noting that a pastor was present to testify to the certainty of the existence of God at the dedication of one of the displays. Because there was a pastor present attempting to testify to the existence of God it became clear that this was not a secular display of history, but rather a religious move and thereby violating the Lemon Test."

That is my point exactly. Since there was no pastor to dedicate the 10 Commandments in Van Orden v. Perry, it remains constitutional. If there was a pastor there to try and "testify to the existence of God" only then would it become unconstitutional. Similar, not same. Not to mention that both were ruled on the same day, so both are still good law as neither have been overturned.

Here is a quote by Justice Byer to help further my point: "In certain contexts, a display of the tablets of the Ten Commandments can convey not simply a religious message but also a secular moral message (about proper standards of social conduct). And in certain contexts, a display of the tablets can also convey a historical message (about a historic relation between those standards and the law)--a fact that helps to explain the display of those tablets in dozens of courthouses throughout the Nation, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

You misunderstood my "Historic Value" point.
The 10 Commandments have a historic value because, as stated previously, because it has long been a part pf the common law of the U.S. and Oklahoma. I was NOT arguing that it had a historic value because it had been sitting there for a while, which makes your refutation void.

What Justice Byer used to make his decision was NOT, and I cannot stress it enough, a new test. They were simply his observations.
Of the 9 factors that Justice Byer used to weigh his decision, you only apply four to the 10 Commandments in Oklahoma. So, I will argue those four, assuming that the other five are met by as they were not addressed.
Point 1: Already refuted. (Previous Paragraph)
Point 3: Why would you need consult with officials? You already have the support of the Founding Fathers. (Refer to quotes that I gave from James Madison and Patrick Henry)
Point 6: It would not stand alone if other religions could come up with reasons that their displays have a secular value.
Point 8: Again, historic value, Writers of the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act have already declared that the intent was historic.

In conclusion, the Act passes the Lemon Test, and It passes the observations of Justice Byer. Which were the main points that were covered in this debate.


http://www.oyez.org...

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com...

http://www.ecapitol.net...

http://home.comcast.net...
Debate Round No. 3
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by XVIII18 2 years ago
XVIII18
Wish I could have made this more rounds. It's all about the context not on the statue. Oh well.
Posted by MattStPaul 2 years ago
MattStPaul
I looked it up: the antagonistic atheist actually ran his truck through the monument. I think they said he was foaming at the mouth, and on drugs. He was arrested immediately. He ran his Chevy several times over the monument, just to make sure it was good and down :D

The court house erected a new Ten Commandments statute the next day.
-MSP
Posted by MattStPaul 2 years ago
MattStPaul
Bennett91
I do think I remember reading that an atheist defaced the 10 commandment statute. The atheist group suing Oklahoma condemned the actions of that man.
-MSP
Posted by Bennett91 2 years ago
Bennett91
Wasn't that statue vandalized/destroyed recently?
Posted by XVIII18 2 years ago
XVIII18
I agree, had there been numerous other similar displays for other religions this would be legal as it is not showing favoritism to a specific religion. However, this is not how this is and therefore it is violating the establishment clause. Read this clause and you will understand the legal basis for why this is illegal.
Posted by Asburnu 2 years ago
Asburnu
This should be interesting. I found nothing in The Constitution that prohibits such a display. The first amendment forbids making a law that recognizes an establishment of religion, but putting up a sign or plaque is not making a law.
I'm all for putting up the 10 Commandment in public places, right next to the sutras, Quran verses, some Lao Tzu, Mark Twain, Socrates, etc. History is full of good ideas with rightful intentions. I say more, not less!
Posted by 21MolonLabe 2 years ago
21MolonLabe
Alright
Posted by XVIII18 2 years ago
XVIII18
I didn't set a word minimum, only a maximum at 10,000 characters. Time to debate is 72 hours.
Posted by 21MolonLabe 2 years ago
21MolonLabe
If I accepted this debate, how long would I have to post my argument? What is the word limit?
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by MattStPaul 2 years ago
MattStPaul
XVIII1821MolonLabeTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Both Pro and Con argued well. But I awarded the points to Con BECAUSE I believe his side reflects what the majority of The People actually want and what they believe. Plus, I don?t support antagonistic groups who promulgate their agendas and then pretend to do so in the name of justice, fairness, and lawfulness. While both made good arguments, Con ultimately met (and bettered) Pro. -MSP
Vote Placed by The-Voice-of-Truth 2 years ago
The-Voice-of-Truth
XVIII1821MolonLabeTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Well, see, what had happened was, I read the arguments, and I voted honestly.
Vote Placed by Hanspete 2 years ago
Hanspete
XVIII1821MolonLabeTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Okay so I felt that Con's arguments were far more developed than Pro's and answered the claim better than Pro's did, Conduct on both sides was very good, as was S and G. Also I found con's sources to be more reliable and better suited to the entire claim and all his points.