Aseret Had'Varim in Tension: The Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights
Mark William Osler
University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota)
July 15, 2007
Journal of Church and State, Vol. 49, p. 683, 2007
This essay describes the way in which the Ten Commandments and the Constitution are in conflict: It is in large part the Bill of Rights which bars the Ten Commandments from serving a functional role in American criminal law. For example, the First Commandment ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me") cannot become a part of the criminal law because of the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion.
This simple observation unsettles the shibboleth that The Ten Commandments are a foundation of American law, and challenges the presentation of the two as companion documents.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: constitution, bill of rights, ten commandments
JEL Classification: K14, K19
Date posted: April 26, 2007 ; Last revised: January 26, 2010