Law, Commandments, and Trump

Terry Schwadron
5 min readJun 20, 2024

Terry H. Schwadron

June 20, 2024

It was for insisting that the Ten Commandments be displayed at the state Capitol that former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from his position — the first of the two times he was suspended. The second was for orders against issuing same-sex marriage licenses despite the law, an act he thought within an approved moral code, if not the law.

Of course it wasn’t until charges against Moore involving sexual assault against several girls emerged that he lost an election to the U.S. Senate — which might have fallen in the “do not covet” commandment.

On the same day as Moore’s first suspension, a court in Kentucky determined that a Ten Commandments display in the location failed to serve any secular purpose and therefore constituted an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

More than 40 years ago, in Stone v. Graham, the Supreme Court overturned a similar state statute, holding that the First Amendment bars public schools from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

So, when Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed legislation on Wednesday to require the display of the Ten Commandments in every public classroom in Louisiana, it was a sign of just how much progress we’re seeing for the forces who want to remake the country into a Christian nation.

Indeed, with Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito defending flying a flag used as a Christian nationalist symbol at one of his homes as within the bounds of normal behavior, and a string of court decisions and Republican state legislation allowing prayer in school, or on football fields, or routing tax dollars into parochial school tuition in the name of parental choice, the culture wars are now legal wars.

Louisiana may be the sole state with the Ten Commandments mandate today, but others are lining up, along with court challenges seemingly aimed at putting this issue in front of the firmly conservative Supreme Court majority. As The New York Times noted, the church-in-school issue “is a battle that proponents are prepared, and in many ways, eager, to take on.”

Words vs. Deeds

Of course, for parodist Andy Borowitz, the temptation to compare the desire to counter “woke” culture with a constant display of the Ten Commandments in every classroom, not smaller than 11 inches by 14, with Donald Trump’s version of behavioral commandments was too much to resist. In Borowitz’ take, “Governor Jeff Landry said the poster would enable students “to keep track of how many Commandments they have broken so they can better follow Trump’s example.”

It’s more than stuff for parody, of course, The comparison of what this Republican state government wants its students to study daily with what Trump, as party leader, does as part of his personal behavioral code. is a sad public statement of hypocrisy.

Commandment 1, which prohibits bowing before any other gods, presents an immediate problem for Trump rallies that salute Trump as a literal Savior returning to lead a campaign of retribution. “

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” seems at odds with a would-be Savior who sells NFTs of himself in various heroic stances. Or take the Lord’s name in vain say, to demean migrants, journalists, scientists or Democrats. Or push through protests to hold a Bible upside-down or sell Bibles for personal gain.

“Thou shalt not kill” works fine for fetus policies, but not for maternal health or for Capitol police slain in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, on Trump’s behalf to remain in office.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery” seems to fall to the guilty finding after witness testimony by Stormy Daniels in his New York trial on falsifying business records to hide hush payments from campaign filing requirements. For that matter, a series of court findings have established Trump’s record of fraud, abridging the “Thou shalt not steal” commandment. Trump regularly runs afoul of the commandment that “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor” or political opponent.

“Thou shall not covet,” the prescription against jealousy of belongings or beings not in your own household, is a farce in Trump World.

I suppose Trump does honor his father and mother, though he also found them to be competitors, and remember a Sabbath, at least to play golf rather than think about humility before any deity or service to community.

Is the anti-”woke” culture more reflective of a morally righteous set of life choices than Trump’s personal record? It feels hard to defend how debasing people for racial or gender identity fits with the spirit of the Ten Commandments or how a pious life allows for denying emergency medical care.

What About Law?

Step back from the hypocrisy over the morality involved and consider what has become a deteriorating slide downhill for separation of church and state in America. We are a pluralistic country bound to protect the rights of all religions, or those who choose not to believe in a deity, supposedly with constitutional language to keep the government out of personal beliefs.

Or not.

This church-state issue hits as American disinterest in public religious is soaring, and this question is seen more as a lever in political wars than religious arguments.

It took The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation one day to announce they will file suit to challenge the new Louisiana law.

The argument, simply, is that classroom displays mandated by the state will result in unconstitutional religious coercion of students, a captive audience. The state will send a message to students and families who do not follow the state’s preferred version of the Ten Commandments that they do not belong, and are not welcome, in our public schools, these groups say.

The counterargument is that the law is backwards. It is government that has proved itself to be increasingly anti-religion, forcing books or history that violate personal morality to be taught. We have a Pledge of Allegiance that includes the inserted words “under God,” and we have a series if court decisions from this Supreme Court that says prayer on school football fields are voluntary and that paying tax money for parochial schools is just fine. Indeed, Arizona is paying millions to private schools, including religious schools, in the name of parental choice.

Conservative voices rejoiced. “Putting this historic document on schoolhouse walls is a great way to remind students of the foundations of American and Louisiana law. First Liberty was grateful to play a part in helping this bill reach the Governor’s desk. We applaud Louisiana for being the first, but by no means the last, state to take this bold step for religious liberty.”

Make no mistake, church-state questions are on a slippery slope towards a religious interpretation of law.