Continuing my series on Oklahoma’s new Ten Commandments monument, we come to the prohibition of blasphemy:
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
As it happens, I’ve dabbled in blasphemy myself, on occasion. Ages ago, I used to sport a custom license plate on the front of my car which read “HTYM HWHY” on the front of my PT Cruiser. Most people didn’t get it, but occasionally I’d notice the driver in front of me glaring furiously into their rear-view mirror and have a bit of a laugh. One day, after visiting my son’s elementary school for open house, I found the plate thoroughly defaced and destroyed. Possibly this not merely vandalism, but divinely ordained retribution for breaking the third commandment, which proscribes any vain usage of the most holy name.
Surely I must have crossed the line by deliberately invoking the Tetragrammaton, but what other sorts of usages should count here? Do all the traditional Semitic names of God count, along with their Greek and English counterparts? Ought I remove vowels so as to show a Talmudic fear of defacing the name of the L-rd Thy G-d?
Once again, I must fall back on the wisdom of the Oklahoma lawmakers to help define the parameters of Biblical law as applied in a modern setting:
§21 901. Blasphemy defined.
Blasphemy consists in wantonly uttering or publishing words, casting contumelious reproach or profane ridicule upon God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Scriptures or the Christian or any other religion.
§21 902. Serious discussion not blasphemy.
If it appears beyond reasonable doubt that the words complained of were used in the course of serious discussion, and with intent to make known or recommend opinions entertained by the accused, such words are not blasphemy.
§21 903. Blasphemy a misdemeanor.
Blasphemy is a misdemeanor.
Whew! That clears it right up. For the record, this right here is a serious discussion.
It is good to know that all three persons of the Christian Trinity enjoy a special status in state law. Usually, people hardly ever bother to invoke the Holy Ghost while swearing a blue streak to high heaven. It does make one wonder, though, whether those Oklahomans found uploading the blasphemy challenge might find themselves on the wrong end of a misdemeanor charge. That said, it is a great relief to see that the State legislators saw fit to reduce the penalty for this offense down to a misdemeanor from the usual Biblical penalty of death. Sweet merciful Jesus!
Of course, any attempts to enforce this commandment (just like the first two) would be barred by the First Amendment, as interpreted by the courts these days. The theocrats who stridently claim that the Ten Commandments are a basis for our laws are up to zero for three.