Mona Charen
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Donald Trump versus the Ten Commandments

The governor of Louisiana just signed a law that will require all public classrooms in the state — from kindergarten to universities — to post the Ten Commandments “on a poster or framed document at least 11 inches by 14 inches … in easily readable font.” 

For the first time since Reconstruction, Louisiana has a Republican governor and Republican supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. Every major elected office in the state government is held by a Republican. In 2020, the state went for Trump over Biden by more than 18 points. This is MAGA land. The Ten Commandments law follows a series of other Trump-inspired measures in Baton Rouge like permitting state law enforcement officers to arrest and jail suspected migrants, allowing permitless carry for guns and classifying abortion pills as dangerous controlled substances.

This Ten Commandments law is a chin-scratcher though. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a big fan of the Decalogue. But I thought the MAGA view was that, at a time like this, with liberals and progressives about to destroy the USA, we can’t afford the luxury of morality. Isn’t that what Evangelicals who’ve embraced Trump and all his works tell themselves?

And yet, here is the Louisiana legislature explaining the importance of morality to the proper functioning of government. The law’s text quotes James Madison: “History records that James Madison, the fourth President of the United States of America, stated that ‘(w)e have staked the whole future of our new nation … upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.'”

Except, whoops, James Madison never wrote those words. The MAGA legislators were duped by a debunked book called “The Myth of Separation.”

Never mind. The important thing is that Louisiana Republicans are keen to associate themselves with Biblical morality.

OK, then. How does Donald Trump measure up?

Let’s start with the first commandment, which, if I may paraphrase, amounts to “One, and only one, God.” So if you glorify and sacralize a person, as many in the GOP do, you are not obeying the first commandment. The offense is worse if the person you worship is yourself. Oh-for-one.

The second commandment forbids idol worship. See commandment one above. Oh-for-two.

In the third commandment, the Lord forbids taking his Name in vain. Trump uses the term “goddam” regularly, including in front of Christian audiences. But they forgive him. Oh-for-three.

Let’s see, the fourth commandment requires that we remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Trump and the MAGAites fail this test, but this one is complicated by a couple thousand years of differing interpretations among Christians and Jews, so let’s call this an incomplete.

Likewise, I see no evidence that Trump has violated the fifth commandment. He passed one.

The sixth gets into tougher territory. Trump has never actually shot anyone on Fifth Avenue, but he has displayed a depraved indifference to murderous violence. Campaigning in 2016, he suggested that the United States government should kill the wives and children of terrorists. He asked the Department Homeland Security to shoot migrants in the legs as they crossed the border and suggested the same about protesters after George Floyd’s death. He knowingly misled millions of Americans about the danger of the coronavirus because he thought it might tank the economy and hurt his reelection chances. And he failed to call off his goons when they were chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” It’s not murder, but it’s awfully close.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Nuff said.

The eighth commandment says “Thou shalt not steal.” Where to begin? With all of the small businessmen and contractors Trump stiffed on his casino projects? With the plaintiffs in the Trump University scam? With the misappropriation of charitable funds? With the $355 million in civil fraud? Or with the boxes of classified documents he secreted away in Mar-a-Lago?

Number nine: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” There has never been a more prodigious nor a more pernicious liar in American public life.

The tenth commandment forbids coveting that which belongs to others. Trump has raised avarice to an art form, convincing millions that his covetousness is actually a virtue, and scorning those who weren’t born to millionaire parents as “losers.” He covets all the baubles of this world (and treats wives as such). But worse, from our perspective as citizens of a free country, is a consistent theme in his life: He truly covets the power of dictators. Trump longs for the coerced sycophancy enjoyed by Putin and Kim. He envies Xi Jinping’s capacity to become president for life. Trump doesn’t just covet things. He covets raw power.

Trump flouts seven-and-one-half of the Ten Commandments.

The governor and members of the Louisiana legislature should make up their minds. Do they want kids to become moral citizens, or do they want them to be like the man to whom MAGA genuflects?

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the “Beg to Differ” podcast. Her new book, “Hard Right: The GOP’s Drift Toward Extremism,” is available now.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

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