The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

religious symbolism should be removed from America's courtrooms

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/22/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,086 times Debate No: 20571
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




I am putting forth the argument that religious symbols like the ten commandments and the swearing in on a bible are offensive to Muslims and Jews and annoying to atheists. Courtrooms are places everybody has to go to and should be treated as such. Not to mention it violates the separation of church and state.


First I shall begin by saying I am a fatalist (I believe in fate, and so like you I disbelieve in a God of any kind). Nonetheless, I see absolutely no harm in involving religion in the courtroom and I believe I have an extremely valid reason for this.

Of course it can be irritating to an atheist to have to fake belief in something to merely partake in a court-case. Yet, the court is not commanding one to say that they are Christian, merely commanding to accept the fact that the American Law is based on the Christian faith. The ten commandments are in fact linked to laws.

ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'
Well, if you have a God before the christian one then is it that much of an effort merely to abide by a false statement of belief to proceed with the case of bringing justice? I mean, if you want to prosecute a murderer the least of your worries should be the God you have to pretend to believe in in order to bring such a justice.

TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'
Well, I do not quite understand this commandment and therefore do not see any issue with having it in a courtroom, one is unlikely going to carve an image of what is in heaven or hell in a court case...

THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'
This is actually applicable to both muslims Jews and any religious person (and to an atheist is of no offence or relevance). This makes everyone happy, I mean it doesn't make atheists sad in any way.

FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'
You aren't exactly going to be requested to bring up the date of sabbath day in a court case so merely having this up on the wall of a courtroom is not offensive at all.

FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'
Now unless the court-case is with a parent, I see no reason for this not to be a very applicable and well-founded commandment to have in a court of justice.

SIX: 'You shall not murder.'
This is a law. It would be on the courtroom wall of an atheist too.

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'
Although in USA this is not a law, it's also a good value to have. I don't think anyone on earth (even people who cheat) would be offende by this statement on the wall of a court.

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'
This is a law. It would be on the courtroom wall of an atheist too.

NINE: 'You shall not pass false testimony'
Lying in a courtroom defeats the very ideal of court and justice and therefore is a very essential statement to be brought into a courtroom.

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'
This is basically about theft and to be honest theft is a crime.

So as far as the ten commandments go I see no reason for them to cause major offense in terms of affecting a court case involving an atheist, muslim, jew, buddhist or any other religion. Therefore, I stand against the motion that involving Christian ideals in a courtroom should be abolished.

You bring up swearing on the bible, and how this is contradicting the fact that we separated Church from State. Although this is a viable view, is it not merely making one promise to tell the truth in the courtroom? Would swearing on a Qur'an, a Torah (Jewish holy book) or even swearing on the laws of science be the same concept?

In conclusion, the courts of today do accomodate for people of all walks of life, they simply have roots and heritage and I see no reason to force them to abandon their Christian roots since I see no direct offence or hindrance in terms of an atheists' functioning in the courtroom nor the atheists' right to express their view on the proposed crime.
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent seems to think that my issue is with the commandments themselves, but this is not the case. My issue is with religious symbolism itself being in a public courtroom. As to what con said about American law being based on the Christian faith, this is also also untrue. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"-Article 1 of the Constitution. Sorry that wasn't a link, but the Constitution is on my phone, so I couldn't link it. Even though the individual commandments aren't my concern, I will still rebut some of what my opponent said on 2 of them. On commandment 1, my opponent said "Well, if you have a god before the Christian one, then is it that much of an effort merely to abide by a false statement of belief...". Actually, if you do believe in another god, then being forced to deny that god is not only the most insulting thing you could ask of that person, but in most religions it is also a deadly sin. As to what my opponent said about number 10, "This is basically about theft and to be honest theft is a crime". In actuality coveting has nothing to do with theft. It can actually be a good thing. If a person has something that I want bad enough, I will break my back working to buy one. Coveting is the number one financial inspiration that there is. As my final point for this round, I will simply say that we have as many religions in the world as we do countries. In a nation that claims religious freedom, then no favoritism should be shown in a government building.


You have some unique points on how coveting can be a positive source of motivation and how pretending to believe in another God is a sin for many religions. Nonetheless, I shall begin by rebutting those points and move on to the constructive.

Firstly, the source of motivation I believe you were referring to was desire, as opposed to coveting someone else's assets (the commandment is specific in that it is about wanting what someone else's, your neighbour's, property). So the commandment itself was referring to desiring someone else's property and possessions, which is the root of most theft. Desire to have something and working hard to get it is not what this was referring to. Envy is not going to be a secure source of motivation for honest work, it is a good source of motivation for cheating one's way to success.

Second of all, the court does not require a person to state that they believe in the Christian God. What it has is commandments on the wall and the fact that one must swear on the bible before entering the courtroom. Having a commandment on the wall regarding believing in another God is not actually saying that you are abiding by that commandment, it is saying that whoever designed that court and runs that court abides by that commandment and is proud to hang it on the wall. If it offend you, merely look away form the wall, it is quite an odd habit to stare at what is written on a wall anyway. So far as swearing on the bible is concerned, there is no religion that bans swearing on another holy book, they only ban believing in what the contents of that book is. By swearing on the bible that you will be honest in the courtroom it is just using the main religion of USA to represent a symbolic promise to honesty in the courtroom, they are not asking you in any way to say you believe in the bible or in the Christian God only that you swear on it that honesty shall be held.

A final point to consider is that of you stating that 'In a nation that claims religious freedom, then no favoritism should be shown in a government building.'. There is a very clear rebuttal here, despite being a Christian-based institution, all courtroom are not allowed, and do not carry out, any favouritism of Christians over any other religion, nor over the non-religious. It is a room of objective justice brought by several jury members and a judge all of whom would, them-self, be put into prison if such favouritism was found to be carried out.

Now to being my constructive, despite not being originated from the Christian religion anymore, the American laws do coincidentally almost all reside to some extent, to the morals and values displayed in the bible. The reason is that most religions are based on a common human's ethics and therefore most laws coincide with these religions.

Also comes the issue of practicality, at the moment there are 94 U.S. district courts and 13 Appeal courts (source: you want to convince the government who both relies on them to make important decision of justice and actually is run by the government to change the religious values they hold? Not only is that a waste of time but actually it would offend Christians who are the majority of the USA, a governments job is to maintain a society and in a democracy such as USA the majority does win. That is how politics has worked in democratic nations for many years.

In conclusion, it would be impractical and against the government's role for them to force courts to abolish their religion. The court does not force one to follow the commandments it merely has them on the wall and most laws are based upon them anyway.
Debate Round No. 2


I would like to start this round by apologizing for how long it took to post my argument, but I've been pretty busy lately. Before I begin, I should point out that con contradicted himself. In round one, he said "If you want to prosecute a murderer, then the least of your worries should be what God you have to pretend to believe in to bring such a justice." In round 2, be said " Second of all, the court does not require a person to state they believe in the Christian God." These are obviously two opposite statements that are a clear contradiction. With that out of the way, I would like to address what my opponent said about " if it offends you, then look away." It's not about the commandments offending anyone, that's what my issue with swearing in on the bible is about. The problem I have with the commandments on the wall, the pictures of Moses, and the nativity scenes some put out around Christmas is the clear violation of separation of church and state. Swearing in on the bible is not necessarily banned, but by using it as a medium to swear truth you are inherently saying that it has value when it comes to truth and honor. As an atheist I wouldn't want to claim that, much less someone of an actual opposing religion. Courts might have had these symbols for a while, but if people accepted things they were and left well enough alone, then there would never be any progress and the human race would never learn anything new. These are both rooted in change. As far as democracy is concerned, public opinion means nothing to legislators or politicians outside of elections. If it did, marijuana would be legal and abortion would be illegal. I might not agree with the second one, but I am willing to admit being in the minority on that one. With the rebuttals done, my only remaining point is the same as it has been. Since it violates the separation of church and state, it is unconstitutional and therefore technically illegal.


I did not contradict myself. There are two separate statements that people shouldn't mind who they have to pretend to believe in and the fact that swearing on the Bible doesn't mean you are saying you believe in the Christian God are two separate statements.

Additionally, it is not illegal nor wrong to maintain the tradition of the courts of a Christian country and separation of Church and state has nothing to do with what religion a court may choose to follow.
Debate Round No. 3


I really don't understand why con doesn't see it. State and federal buildings, like courthouses, + religious symbolism and practices = violation of separation of church and state. How is that confusing? As to his assertion that swearing in on the bible just isn't a big deal to non Christians is just untrue. Even as an atheist it is offensive to have to use the Bible as though it had some kind of value when it comes to truth. I can only imagine what its like for someone who actually
puts faith into what they believe.


OpinionatedMan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


My opponent forfeited this round.


OpinionatedMan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Mvdietrich 4 years ago
That's spending time and resources to just get rid of some symbolic symbols that have been in America for at lest a 100 years... why bother, it's not like their hurting you.
Posted by ConservativePolitico 4 years ago
If I didn't swear on a Bible there would be no compulsion for me to tell the truth.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ricky_Zahnd 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: forfeiture