America’s legal system has been set adrift on a sea of unfounded personal opinion by modern legal scholars. In the last fifty years or more, most judges in America examine case histories to find precedents that allow them to make rulings based on their humanistic opinion of how society should function. This practice is equivalent to discarding all standards of measure and asking judges to estimate the length of a yard every time there is a dispute, which they will never do with precision or accuracy. In this way laws are imposed upon society, because they are not passed through Congress whose members are elected to represent the people, and the rule of law is replaced by the rule of man.
Another result of using case law as a legal standard is a glut of suits that clog our legal system with ridiculous cases and cost tax payers and innocent defendants millions of dollars in legal fees. This practice may be a financial windfall for judges and lawyers and give social engineers a tool to force the will of the minority onto the majority, but it is an anchor around the leg of prosperity for everyone else. The American economy has suffered from, among other things, a lack of initiative and productivity by innovators, entrepreneurs and even ordinary citizens who are justly concerned about the high probability of legal action against them for anything they might do, but it hasn’t always been this way. When our founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution they did it with a universal understanding of common law, and it is only with a common law understanding that these two documents can be correctly interpreted.
Until the 1870s, when the Dean of Harvard Law imposed the case method on his students, every lawyer in America studied Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England in order to pass the Bar. Blackstone’s Commentaries, which explains common law, was so prevalent that it became the foundation of American jurisprudence, which means it was the science and philosophy of American Law. This is significant because Blackstone’s Commentaries trace every law back to one of the Ten Commandments and in this way American Law depended upon the Ten Commandments as its legal foundation.
The Ten Commandments, as the foundation of American Law, has in no way violated freedom of conscience. In upholding our Christian based Law, no one was attempting to force anyone to believe in Christ, because law, in a Christian worldview, rightfully can only enforce a standard of conduct and not of conscience. The Ten Commandments was no more an imposition of religion upon people than speed limits, traffic signals, and stop signs are an imposition of morality upon motorists, because they are examples of standards of conduct and not compulsion of belief.
The confusion may come from a misapplication of the Ten Commandments and its two tables of law. The first table of law is the first four commandments, which directs man’s relationship to God, and the second table of law is the last six commandments, which directs man’s relationship to man. Another way of understanding them is the first table of law governs a person’s domestic policy and the second table of law governs a person’s foreign policy.
Enforcement of the first table of law is administrated by the church, because it is only the church that can instruct people on God’s word and the church has a different authority over the people under their jurisdiction. Government and the courts, with two exceptions, only have jurisdiction over the second table of law, because people are unable to know another’s conscience and can only regulate a person’s behavior or their foreign policy.
The two exceptions in which the government has jurisdiction in the first table of law deals with conduct not conscience. For example, in the 1811 Supreme Court case People v Ruggles the court upheld a profanity charge against a person who publically used the Lord’s name in vain. Additionally, until relatively recently many States had “Blue laws” restricting commerce on Sundays. These two examples show how government should uphold laws from the first table, because they govern behavior not conscience. Conversely, neither government nor the courts can enforce the commandment on coveting from the second table of law unless a person proves they were coveting by committing theft, but even then a person’s motive is not clear.
The Ten Commandments, when understood in this manner, are very simple and do not violate anyone’s freedom of conscience. Under the Ten Commandments the government is only allowed to regulate a finite portion of a person’s conduct and not interfere in any way with their personal understanding of God or other liberties not restricted by the Commandments. Most importantly, they provide an absolute legal standard of personal responsibility, so that businesses don’t have to worry about being sued for someone spilling coffee on their lap and people don’t have to worry about being thrown into prison for collecting rain water on their property. If Americans earnestly desire to restore the rule of law and their Country’s prosperity, they should start with demanding the restoration of the Ten Commandments to the courts and the impeachment of those who do not uphold them.