HAF EXPLAINS OBJECTIONS FOR PUBLIC DISPLAY OF TEN COMMANDMENTS TO SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

HAF wrote a letter to the editor in response to an Op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Legal bah humbug" by David Davenport on December 23, 2004. The author writes about an American Civil Liberties Union Lawsuit objecting to a religious public holiday display for Christmas in Rhode Island. In the article, he mentions how the ACLU has also fought for the removal of the Ten Commandments monuments. Our letter explains our stance on why the Ten Commandments ought not to be displayed in public places.

DATE: December 28, 2004

In "Legal bah humbug", December 23, 2004, David Davenport talks about the challenges facing the expression of religious sentiments in public places. However, we think he erred by also referring to the efforts by the ACLU to ban the display of the Ten Commandments monument in public places.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) recently led nine other Hindu, Buddhist and Jain groups in filing an amicus curiae brief (see www.hinduamericanfoundation.org) with the US Supreme Court in the Orden vs Perry case, asking for the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from Texas State Capitol grounds. HAF and the co-signatories regard the Ten Commandments with utmost respect. But the overtly religious Monument is a blow to pluralism, and its prominent presence on Texas Capitol grounds implies an unconstitutional preference for those precepts etched on the Monument and political and social exclusion of Hindus, Jains and Buddhists alike.

Non-Judeo-Christian beliefs regarding the nature of God and the relationship between man and God differ greatly from those enshrined in the monument. The Hindu concepts of panentheistic (not pantheistic) monotheism, the omnipotence and omnipresence of God and the use of consecrated images in worship directly conflict with specific Commandments. Similarly the Jain and Buddhist concept that there is no creator/controller God is shown to be irreconcilable with the premise of the Commandments, "...that a separate divine entity has handed down Commandments as a king might set rules for his subjects."

A diverse society such as ours requires that the government respect all religions equally and not display undue preference for any one religion's beliefs and practices.

Swaminathan Venkataraman
Member, Executive Council
Hindu American Foundation