MALDEN — The proposed Ten Commandments monument for the Bureau County Courthouse lawn is more than just a religious statement, according to project organizer David Beck.
On Tuesday, Beck said the biggest misconception about the proposed project is that it is strictly a religious monument. The monument represents Illinois’ history, as well as the history of the entire nation, which was based on moral law, he said.
Though the top of the proposed monument will be an open Bible with the Ten Commandments, the four sides of the monument will be inscribed with quotes from Illinois historical figures Owen Lovejoy, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, as well as the founding fathers of the country, Beck said.
Unlike other existing Ten Commandment monuments in Texas, Beck said the proposed Bureau County monument would have benches nearby so people can sit and reflect on the country’s history and enjoy the day.
“What we hope is that people will pause and think about the history of the country and remember that we need to get back to the moral foundation of our country,” Beck said. “That’s my desire, to remind people that this country was founded on a moral basis. That’s why this country is in the trouble it is — because we’ve stepped away from that moral basis.”
Beck’s proposal was presented for discussion at the April meeting of the Bureau County Board. The proposed monument would be made of granite, approximately 3-foot-by-3-foot-by-3-foot in size, and cost about $25,000 to $30,000. According to Beck, the purchase, installation and upkeep of the monument would all be through private funds. The county board referred the proposal to Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann to look into the legality of the issue.
Beck said another misconceptions concerning the proposed Ten Commandments monument is that some people think other religions would also have the right for representation on the courthouse lawn. The law of the United States was based on the Ten Commandments, not Islam or any other religion, he added.
Concerning the separation of the church and state issue, Beck said founding father Thomas Jefferson wrote that government should not make laws concerning the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. He said the intent was to protect the church from government interference, not the other way around.
As far as any possible lawsuits which could come if the monument is approved by the county board, Beck said there are already lawyers who have promised to defend the project, pro bono. However, he believes the monument proposal is on solid legal ground.
“Let me assure you there are no legal issues to worry about. This has already gone to the Supreme Court and was found to be on solid ground,” the Malden man said, adding the U.S. Supreme Court has several displays of the Ten Commandments within its building. The idea isn’t to avoid anything religious, but rather to pull people toward it, he said.
For those people who think the presentation of the Ten Commandments should be a private thing for Christians to do themselves, Beck said he agrees Christians should be taking a stand on their own private properties, but the proposed monument has a historical focus, and therefore, should also be a project to be shown on the courthouse lawn.
“We are a strong nation because of our faith,” Beck said. “The idea of the monument is not to promote religion, but to get people to be reminded that our foundation is based on moral law.”
For now, Beck and his wife, Delilah, along with a committee of about 10 other area residents, are continuing to wait for a decision by the Bureau County Board as to whether the project can go forward. Beck said he is willing to address the county board, if asked, to share why he believes the Ten Commandments are a part of the country’s history and deserve a place on the courthouse lawn.
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The Ten Commandments
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2. Thou shalt not make any graven images.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. Though shalt not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.