Readers React: A nonbeliever explains why Christian symbols do not express universal ethical values

The Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Md., on June 19.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Washington Post)

To the editor: This editorial’s take on the unconstitutionality of the Bladensburg, Md., cross is spot on. But one parenthetical about public monuments to the Ten Commandments, which the editorial says some nonbelievers see as “containing universal ethical precepts,” bedevils this nonbeliever.

First of all, which Ten Commandments? There are four sets. The more famous commandments in Exodus Chapter 20 are far less ethical than people realize.

Some of the commandments violate the core American principle of religious liberty. Those that disallow taking God’s name in vain or making idols violate freedom of expression. The ban on coveting manages to criminalize thought, treats women as chattel and sanctions slavery.

Only a few of the commandments represent anything like universal ethical principles: Don’t steal, kill, lie or cheat on your spouse. And even that last one only applied to biblical wives, not husbands.


In short, we can do better than the Ten Commandments.

Andrew Seidel, Madison, Wis.

The writer is a lawyer with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.



To the editor: The 1st Amendment says only that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Those seeking to eliminate “crosses on public land” would be hard pressed to find anyone, including the nonreligious and those of non-Christian faiths, who have felt any pressure to join a particular religion or who believe that the crosses even encourage people to do so.

As the editorial says, America is becoming more religiously diverse. This would not be the case if the crosses had the feared effect.

Our judiciary has better things to do than to joust at crosses. Leave the historical monuments alone.

Scott Perley, Irvine


To the editor: This editorial brings to mind what former Texas Gov. Ann Richards reportedly said when the ACLU filed suit over the placement of a Christmas manger scene in the state Capitol, which she feared would have to be removed:

“It’s a shame, because it’s about the only time we ever had three wise men in the Capitol.”


Ryan Mac Donald, Woodland Hills

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