It's the law!


Last updated 4/27/2022 at 5:38pm

There are some Americans who believe our common law was derived from the Ten Commandments. A brief analysis shows the implausibility of that view.

I-IV. These deal with God and religion, which our secular government and its laws are forbidden to address.

V. As far as I know, there are no laws now or previously that require you to honor your father and mother, nor should there be.

VI-IX. The four no-no's: don’t murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness. Basically it’s a negative way of stating the Golden Rule, i.e., do no harm to your fellow citizens. And that is the core of every Social Code since humankind became social creatures. So, while the don’ts are enumerated here, they did not originate here.

X. The tenth commandment deals with not coveting. It’s good advice, but nothing that could be legislated by our legal code.

Our legal code – common law – is a social code. It specifies the rules we have agreed to live by in order to insure the safety and security of our society as a whole. What it is not is a moral code. In theory, at least, a citizen could be totally immoral, but still a citizen in good standing. Moral codes and social mores have their place, but that place is not in our legal code.

If our legal code wasn’t derived from the Ten Commandments, where did it come from? At our country’s founding, we had no common law, so we took England’s common law as a base. “Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England” was the go-to book then. The English common law traces its origin back to the Magna Carta, not the Bible.

Finally, my point: It’s way past time for our federal government to put an end to any efforts to legislate morality at any level of government. The private behavior of consenting adults should not, and never should have been, subject to legislation. Likewise, their medical decisions should not be subject to political intrusion. If churches wish to impose moral constraints on their congregants, fine: that is within their purview. But ours is a secular government. Let’s get it back to doing what it’s supposed to do: making America better than ever.

John H. Terrell


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