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Ten Commandments monuments are MOVIE PROMOS?
March 15, 2005 6:17 PM   Subscribe

Apparently, thousands of Ten Commandments monuments around the country began their lives as promos for the 1956 movie "The Ten Commandments" (Including the one in the case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month). "The stars of the movie, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Martha Scott, attended many of the dedications." Transcripts of the March 2nd arguments here and here. This was also pointed out on the NPR radio comedy program "Wait, Wait - Don't Tell Me" (click the "Listen" link next to "Opening Panel Round: The Supreme Court and Cecil B. DeMille"). Does/should this affect your views on the case? Is this a minor detail, or is it an under-reported fact in the U.S. media? [via Monkeyfilter]
posted by spock (27 comments total)

 
Sorry. Registration was not required a minute ago. Article mirrored (Registration Free) here.
posted by spock at 6:30 PM on March 15, 2005


It doesn't seem nearly as related to the movie as your post makes it out to be, but maybe that's just my reading of the article.

As far as I can tell, it started off as some judge's idea, and then was taken up by this Fraternal Order of Eagles group that placed 4,000 (!) of the stone copies around the country. At the same time, the movie happened to be coming out, and some of the actors (and the director?) attended the dedication ceremonies.

Seems more like a confluence of events than the movie actually causing the tablets to be created and placed as a promotion.

I am interested in more thoughts on this, though.
posted by odinsdream at 6:39 PM on March 15, 2005


Nope, doesn't affect my opinion at all and smacks of "well, everybody was doin' it those days." Too defensive in nature to take it as useful journalism.
posted by FormlessOne at 6:41 PM on March 15, 2005


Makes it worse donnit?

I mean it's one thing to not separate church and state, but yoking commerce to them?

Didn't someone about 2000 years ago get reeeel pissed off about that?
http://lyrical.nl/song/6852
posted by Smedleyman at 6:46 PM on March 15, 2005


They didn't "start out" as movie promotions. One of "the two men," E.J. Ruegemer,
"was a juvenile court judge in Minnesota. He used to tell a story about a delinquent boy who came into his court and didn't know what the Ten Commandments were.

Judge Ruegemer had an idea: print up copies for courtrooms and classrooms.

His project, taken up by an organization called the Fraternal Order of Eagles, eventually got the attention of Cecil B. DeMille
So it started out as an inappropriate attempt to put the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, and DeMille co-opted it to promote the movie.

By the way, the Friends of Eagles web site (sweet ironic URL) has a 1955 essay by DeMille on Why We Need the Ten Commandments.

[My comments brazenly self-plagarized from MonkeyFilter.]
posted by kirkaracha at 6:48 PM on March 15, 2005


"The stars of the movie, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Martha Scott, attended many of the dedications."

Martha Scott and Yul Brenner are gone, but if I were an enterprising journalist, I'd ask Charleton Heston about those dedications he purportedly attended. We still have enterprising journalists. . . don't we???
posted by spock at 6:51 PM on March 15, 2005


That was about the same time that "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
posted by caddis at 6:55 PM on March 15, 2005


Great find kirkaracha. Didja notice that, in the picture accompanying the article, Yul Brenner is speaking in 1955? Movie released in 1956. Article introduction says FOE began giving monuments in 1954. Sounds like DeMille was in it from pretty close to the beginning (you can't tell me he wasn't already at least laying the groundwork on the movie in 1954).
posted by spock at 7:01 PM on March 15, 2005


Um, so? DeMille was probably working on the movie by 1954, and I'm sure that he glommed onto the project as soon as he heard about it to get the free publicity. That doesn't change the fact that the project started as an effort by Judge Ruegemer to put the Ten Commandments into courtrooms and classrooms.

Free Republic's web site has a repost of an August 30, 2003, Star Tribune article on E. J. Ruegemer, who was 101 years old at the time.
Still, if that 16-year-old boy were before him again, "I'd do exactly the same thing. I'd sentence him to learn and live by the Ten Commandments. The difference is, now I might have been reversed on appeal."
That was about the same time that "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

That's right, and people were scared of the godless Commies. Now we're scared of godless terrorists.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:20 PM on March 15, 2005


Those skyscrapers in San Francisco? Leftover sets from The Towering Inferno. Just thought you should know.
posted by jonmc at 7:28 PM on March 15, 2005


kirkaracha: I'm not arguing with you. The judge did start the movement to get printed copies of the Ten Commandments in courts and schools. But what has been left out of the coverage is what your last link details: That all the monuments were part of the movie promotion idea that Cecil B. De Mille latched onto. I think that is significant.

Regarding the central point (whether they should be there in the first place) I wonder if American's views would be different if they were in a country (claiming to separate Church and State) that had a judge who, with a troubled youth before him, ordered that copies of the Koran be placed in schools and courtrooms (to teach him some values). It really isn't about whether or not that wasn't a well-intentioned idea (or even if it worked. It is about how much it affects or bothers those who do not subscribe to the same "divine text".
posted by spock at 7:36 PM on March 15, 2005


Also, to be fair, it has been covered in the media a bit more than I first believed.
posted by spock at 7:50 PM on March 15, 2005


Now we're scared of godless terrorists.

I thought the problem was that they had too much god.
posted by unsupervised at 8:07 PM on March 15, 2005


"It really isn't about whether or not that wasn't a well-intentioned idea (or even if it worked. It is about how much it affects or bothers those who do not subscribe to the same 'divine text'."

This is the crux of the problem, and the reason we have separation in the first place...but sociopolitical "gravity" has been pulling the two together/apart since 1789 or so. Nothing new, and so it goes...
posted by schyler523 at 8:10 PM on March 15, 2005


How did the section of Exodus get to be known as "The Ten Commandments?" It seems arbitrary the way they get divided up. A lot of them are compound. It seems like they are trying to sneak extra commandments in there and then telling us it's ten (personally, I'll forgo coveting my neighbor's wife, but that's a damned good ox.).

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's."

Beyond being unnecessarily repetitive ("anything that is thy neighbor's" covers the first part), it is also bowdlerized. A manservant wasn't an English butler back then, he was a slave. Therefore, the ten commandments acknowledges slavery and implicitly supports it. Leaving out the slavery part is a form of right wing political correctness.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:53 PM on March 15, 2005


I believe you want "Theology", on the seventh floor.
posted by spock at 9:39 PM on March 15, 2005


Leaving out the slavery part is a form of right wing political correctness.

Heh. That's not even the worst part of the Bible. In case you haven't noticed, the Bible is filled with all sorts of atrocities, many of them committed by God himself. That doesn't bother the devout one bit. That's religion for you.
posted by aerify at 9:39 PM on March 15, 2005


and DeMille co-opted it to promote the movie.

Ha. The myth of "Liberal Hollywood" collides with the reality of "Anything for a Buck Hollywood" once again.
posted by mediareport at 9:40 PM on March 15, 2005


It seems like they are trying to sneak extra commandments in there and then telling us it's ten

George Carlin: When they were making this shit up, why did they pick 10? Why not 9 or 11? I'll tell you why- because 10 sounds official. Ten sounds important! Ten is the basis for the decimal system, it's a decade, it's a psychologically satisfying number (the top ten, the ten most wanted, the ten best dressed). So having ten commandments was really a marketing decision!
posted by soyjoy at 9:44 PM on March 15, 2005


The myth of "Liberal Hollywood" collides with the reality of "Anything for a Buck Hollywood" once again.

Where does it say the two are mutually exclusive?
posted by spock at 9:46 PM on March 15, 2005


Where does it say the two are mutually exclusive?

My point is that the "liberal"-ness of Hollywood is only very "liberal" when it doesn't get in the way of making money. And even then it's not deeply liberal, but that's another thread.
posted by mediareport at 11:28 PM on March 15, 2005


mediareport is correct. As with every other aspect of life here in the USA, the Prime Directive is Make As Many Bucks As Possible. It trumps everything else, including the Ten Recommendations. Witness our health-care system, "the envy of the world."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:22 AM on March 16, 2005


I always thought the monuments had simply showed up one day during a solar eclipse and beamed signals to Saturn.
posted by postmodernmillie at 5:37 AM on March 16, 2005


Which Ten Commandments? DeMille and Ruegemer found "Catholic, Jewish and Protestant scholars willing to come up with a version of the Commandments that incorporated all three traditions," but somehow I think proponents of putting the Ten Commandments in courthouses or other government places don't mean the Jewish or Catholic versions.

Most of our knowlege of Greek and Roman works was preserved in the Islamic world during the Middle Ages, and Islamic scientific discoveries were a major contribution to the Renaissance. Given Islam's contributions to our intellectual history, surely no one would object to posting excerpts from the Qur'an in the Supreme Court, right?

kirkaracha: I'm not arguing with you.
Whew. 'Cause spock and kirkaracha shouldn't fuss.

posted by kirkaracha at 9:23 AM on March 16, 2005


Is there a 10 Commandments for the Holy Church of the Corporate Profits?
posted by nofundy at 10:54 AM on March 16, 2005


Is there a 10 Commandments for the Holy Church of the Corporate Profits?

"First, do no good that does not enrich the bottom line."
posted by mediareport at 7:07 PM on March 16, 2005


Sure!

From the Corporate Bible of the Holy Church of the Corporate Profits, Impetus 20:
2 I am the LORD thy CEO, which have brought thee out of the land of Unemployment, out of the house of debtors.
3 Thou shalt have no other CEOs before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in Home Office, or that is in the Field Office, or that is Copyrighted elsewhere:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy CEO am a jealous CEO, visiting the iniquity of the managers upon the leads unto the third and fourth generation of them that are mildly irritated by me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy CEO in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the Shareholders' Meeting, to keep it holy.
9 Five days and forty hours shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the sixth and seventh days are the downtime of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy manager, nor thy secretary, thy financial planner, nor thy technical support, nor thy direct reports, nor thy stranger that is within thy office, unless the overtime is absolutely necessary to ensure that I the LORD thy CEO make mine dates on time:
11 For in five days the LORD did transition into Home Office, and into the Field Offices, and all that in them is, and rested the sixth and seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the downtime, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy direct reports: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy CEO giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill in the office.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery in the office.
15 Thou shalt not steal from the office.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy manager in the office.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy manager's house, thou shalt not covet thy manager's wife, nor his butler, nor his maid, nor his Ferrari, nor his cigarette boat, nor any thing that is thy manager's.

Yep, goin' to hell.
posted by FormlessOne at 8:49 PM on March 16, 2005


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