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Prof on PBS panel speaks up for posting of Ten Commandments

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–A generation of “angry children” is reason enough for the Ten Commandments to be posted in America’s schools, preaching professor Hershael York said Feb. 7 on a PBS affiliate.

York, on the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was one of four panelists discussing the role of the Ten Commandments in public schools on “Kentucky Tonight,” a PBS show broadcast across Kentucky. Other panelists included Kent Ostrander of the Family Foundation of Kentucky; Jeffrey Vessels of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky; and Johanna Bos, a professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

A Kentucky Supreme Court ruling 20 years ago struck down a law mandating the posting of the Ten Commandments. Since then, the issue hasn’t gone away.

“It’s hard to erase a document that some of us see as having eternal significance,” York said.

York said the Supreme Court was wrong in its decision 20 years ago, and Ostrander agreed, calling for the issue to be decided by the parents in each community.

“We don’t need government, we don’t need theologians, we don’t need the ACLU telling parents what their children should learn,” Ostrander said. “The schools need to be responsible to parents.”

But Vessels took the opposite position. “Government is forbidden from promoting religion and taking a stance to inhibit or endorse religion,” he said.

Bos, meanwhile, argued that posting the Ten Commandments alone took them out of the historical context within which they are to be understood.

“The moral codes as they are found in Scripture are to be taught within a religious context, because that’s where they belong,” she said.

But York didn’t agree. He said the Ten Commandments were “basic to our respect for others, our respect for ourselves, our respect for property. Quite frankly, what we’re doing today is not working real great.”

York said the United States’ founding fathers never intended the Constitution to prohibit religion in the public sphere.

“I don’t see how any thinking person could suggest that they would be against [posting the Ten Commandments],” York said.

And, York said, it would help reduce violence in schools. “It is a moral code,” he said. “It is a standard of values that we can look at and we can say, ‘Here’s what you do. Here’s what you don’t do.'”

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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