University of Tulsa Law professor to speak on Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments-should they be displayed in government settings, and is there historic justification to do so? These are topics for this spring’s Faculty Distinguished Lecturer Series at Sam Houston State


Paul Finkelman, Chapman Distinguished Professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law, will speak on the topic “Are the Ten Commandments the Basis of American Law: Ten Commandments and Public Space.”

Finkelman’s presentation is scheduled for 11 a.m. April 11 in Olson Auditorium in Academic Building 4.

Since 2000 there have been a number of controversies over the posting of the Ten Commandments on public property. The most famous of these centered on a 5,500-pound monument placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court Building.

Last year a divided U. S. Supreme Court upheld the right of Texas to keep a similar monument on its statehouse grounds, but struck down a Kentucky law requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in county


Finkelman’s lecture will focus on two aspects of the debate.

First, whether it is possible to erect a “neutral” Ten Commandments plaque or monument that would neither favor any particular religious faith nor violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The second part of the lecture focuses on the claim of Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama, and others, that the Ten Commandments represent the “moral foundation of American law,” and monuments honoring such

commandments are not religious but “historical” in nature.

Among his many accomplishments, Finkelman was an expert witness in the Alabama case. His versatility is also evident in the fact that he had a similar involvement in a lawsuit over the ownership of Barry Bonds’

73rd home run ball.

Finkelman has written more than 50 articles and authored or edited more than 20 books such as Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South (2003), Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (2001), Religion and American Law: An Encyclopedia (2000), and An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity (1981).

He currently teaches constitutional law and American legal history at the University of Tulsa College of Law and has also taught at the University of Akron Law School and the University of Texas at Austin.

He has served as a fellow in law and the humanities at Harvard Law School.

He received both his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Chicago and his undergraduate degree from Syracuse University.

The Faculty Distinguished Lecturer Series has included such noteworthy figures as former president George Bush, Poland’s president and Communism foe Lech Walesa, George Kenneth Galbraith, and many others.

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