Amid the controversy about displays of Ten Commandments monuments in state houses and court rooms, the original intent of those monuments is often forgotten. That intent, of course, being promoting a movie.
You may have noticed a striking similarity among the granite monuments representing the tablets that Moses supposedly carried down from Mount Sinai. That’s because, in the mid-1950s, amid the fears in the U.S. of “godless communism”, and rampant anti-Semitism, Hollywood tried to redeem itself by producing religious epics like “The Ten Commandments”. And what better way to promote the movie than to build hundreds of monuments to the tablets across the country?
When Hollywood producer Cecil B. DeMille launched the epic film “The Ten Commandments” in 1956, he agreed to engage in a unique educational and promotional campaign. DeMille cleared the way for the display of hundreds of granite monuments of the Ten Commandments in communities across the country – a project financed by the service organization, the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
E.J. Ruegemer, a retired judge who assisted DeMille, told The Wall Street Journal, “The Commandments are not just a religious rule, but a good code of conduct which can be followed by everyone, regardless of creed.”
Right. At least, according to Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News, the two men were able to find “Catholic, Jewish and Protestant scholars willing to come up with a version of the Commandments that incorporated all three traditions.(In different texts, the Commandments have different wordings, even different numberings.)”
About 4,000 granite slabs were eventually placed by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. They include the one in Austin that the Supreme Court is considering – and one in Fair Park in Dallas.