When the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin came toWashington a few years ago, he met with a group of friends of the Jewishstate.

"Mr. Begin," one gentleman said, "I'm a sympathizer. I care aboutyou and your party. I hope you win. But why are you always so negative? I >do a lot of public relations work in Washington, and I can tell you, peopledon't like negative. Can't you please put your program in more positiveterms?"

Benny Begin, who had all of his famous father's charisma and Old Worlddignity, hesitated as he carefully considered his answer. Then, lookingdirectly at his supporter through thick glasses, he said: "I appreciateyour thoughtful question. I will see what I can do. I will consult with my colleagues about coming across too negative. But you will grant us this:In Israel, there are certain precedents for thou shalt not!"


In America, too, there are certain precedents. For 200 years,Americans, like the people of Israel, derived their moral judgments from the ideals embodied in the Ten Commandments. Not every American, to be sure,believed that God gave us the commandments. But few people would openlyquestion that the Decalogue, as it is sometimes known in academic circles,formed the basis for our public life together.

George Washington knew the importance of God's law in the maintenance ofcivil peace. In his famous Farewell Address, he urged Americans not tolisten to those who would strip away the foundations of our national life:"Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality canprevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Those who would strip the Ten Commandments from our national life aredoing exactly what Washington warned against. As he put it, "Where is thesecurity for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religiousobligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation inthe Courts of Justice?"

We have learned to our sorrow in recent years what happens in a countrythat forgets that oaths are vitally important and that perjury subverts ourentire system of justice. Yes, we can always threaten people withprosecution for perjury. And we can put people in prison if we catch themcommitting perjury. But isn't it better if a person will simply tell "thetruth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God?"

Washington was not the only Founding Father who believed that religious principle reinforced reason and interest. Thomas Jefferson saw an intimate connection between respect for God and the survival of liberty itself.

"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure," he asked, "when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people thattheir liberties are a gift of God--that they are not to be violated exceptwith His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."

As we face daily examples of horrible crimes--murders, rapes, childmolesting--is it really so surprising? For 30 years, there has been avigorous effort on the part of some to do exactly what Jefferson warnedagainst, to "remove the only firm basis" of God-given liberties from theminds of the people.

Where does this effort begin? In our schools, for one. I don't want to re-fight here all the battles over evolution and intelligent design, orto make the case for voluntary student-initiated prayer. Those issues areseparate and can be addressed separately.

But I do want to say that thereis something terribly wrong when a kindergarten girl is ordered to stopdistributing Christmas cards to her classmates because they say, "JesusLoves You." This actually happened in suburban Howard County, Maryland.

Students are being required to read textbooks from which any references to God have been carefully removed. One example, found by New York University psychology professor Paul Vitz, described Pilgrims as "people who go on journeys."

The Pilgrims "gave thanks," but the book blotted out mention of the God to whomthey gave their thanks.

Another example Dr. Vitz found, "Zlateh and theGoat," is a story of a young Jewish boy in Poland who issaved from freezing to death. In Nobel Prizewinner Isaac BashevisSinger's original story, Zlateh thanks God for his survival. In thecensored version, Zlateh thanks goodness.

We at Family Research Council think that the Supreme Court has gone toofar in attempting to erect a "high wall of separation" between church andstate. The founders never intended to put such a wall between the Americanpeople and their free exercise of religious expression. We have come to anawful state when every form of vile and vulgar speech is protected andprayer is banned.

We have protested the rulings of the court that banned invocations andbenedictions at public school graduations. The Congress opens its day withprayer. So does the Supreme Court itself. The justices even look out on areplica of the Ten Commandments in the Court chamber.