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Do Leading Colorado Republicans Still Favor Public Posting of Ten Commandments?

02/07/2011 06:12 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jason Salzman Former media critic at the Rocky Mountain News; Blogger, www.bigmedia.org.

The Ten Commandments always make for good conversations. For example, do you prefer the version that includes "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife?" Or the version that shortens this to "Thou shall not covet?"

Trouble is, most everyone I ask, except my mother-in-law, can't recite the Commandments, so they can't talk about the finer points.

Most people remember some of them, but the middle group trips them up. The ones like, "Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day."

In any case, I was asking people about the Commandments last week because a U.S. Court of Appeals in Ohio ruled Wednesday that a county judge violated the constitutional separation of church and state by hanging a poster listing the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.

Not a huge story, of course, but one that's been dragging on for a while and has developed a following. And it's a story with a Colorado angle that local reporters missed.

During the 2010 primary U.S. Sen. candidate Ken Buck, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, State Sen. Ken Lambert (SD 9), State Sen. Kevin Grantham (SD 2), Rep. Mark Barker (HD 17), Rep. Jon Becker (HD 63), Rep. Ray Scott (HD 54), and Rep. Libby Szabo (HD 27) apparently filled out a survey from the Christian Family Alliance indicating that they support "public posting of 10 Commandments."

Buck's back in Weld County, but the ones doing people's work, do they still favor the public posting of the Ten Commandments, even though it looks even more definitively like the law does not?

Maybe you're thinking this is a waste, and we should move on to a more timely topic.

But it's obviously worth a reporter's time to track back and find out what candidates are thinking about their election pledges, especially when the issues involved are in the news.

Much has been written about the trap Colorado Senate Ken Buck fell into when he positioned himself on the far right of the political spectrum, advocating, for example, a ban on common forms of birth control. These far-right positions helped Buck beat his opponent Jane Norton in the GOP primary, but they tied him in knots later, as he tried to say no one cared about the social-conservative issues that Buck had passionately endorsed in the primary.

Compared to a far-right pledge on abortion, a promise to support posting the Ten Commandments may sound like a throw-away.

But just in case you're like me, and you can't seem to remember the Commandments, here's one common version:

1. I am the Lord your God.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
3. Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
4. Honor thy mother and father.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

So, as can see, we're not just talking about "Thou shalt not steal" here.

My own atheism biases me, but can anyone explain how it possibly doesn't mix church and state for the government to post this religious list? The best argument is, well, the government already allows public displays of religion on government property with government funds. But this is more extreme than "Merry Christmas."

Messages to Gardner, Szabo, and Becker were not returned on Friday.

One of the core functions of journalists, when you think about it, should be to track campaign pledges. It helps people understand the election process; the dynamics of a primary versus the general election, for example. It helps illuminate candidates' commitments to doing what they say they'll do, which is clearly a major concern of voters these days. Generally, reporting on campaign promises helps voters make informed decisions, which is, again, a big part of what journalism is about.

Regardless of where you come down on this, journalists should be in the business of tracking campaign pledges. And this is an interesting one.

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