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O'REILLY: Lying, cheating permeate our great society

So, I'm trying to channel Moses here to find out why so many Americans are bearing false witness against their neighbors. Ask any attorney or judge, and they will tell you that lying under oath is now the rule, not the exception, in the nation's courtrooms.

In addition, the national cheating epidemic has exploded. A Georgia investigation alleges systematic cheating occurred at 44 public schools over a 10-year period. But it's not the kids who were caught. No, the state says at least 178 teachers and principals did the deeds. It seems the remarkable improvements in student scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests were fraudulent. Educators doctored the tests in order to make their schools look good. They have all been fired.

Lying and cheating almost always come down to betrayal and are most often driven by selfishness. America has become a nation obsessed with immediate gratification. Public schools have embraced secularism with a vengeance; therefore, Moses and his Ten Commandments have been banished.

There are, of course, good people who understand that honesty is indeed the best policy if you want to live a worthwhile life. But their numbers are dwindling. In fact, a recent study out of the University of Connecticut says that an astounding 95 percent of high school students have admitted to cheating in the past year.

For a variety of reasons, our society now embraces and empowers scoundrels. Many of them are fun and exciting. Charlie Sheen commands headlines. Bad guy rappers make millions. In the 1960s, it was: ''If it feels good, do it.'' Today, it is: ''If it looks good, steal it.'' Or: ''If it sounds good, say it.'' Many of the moral boundaries that once elevated this country have collapsed.

President Barack Obama talks about ''shared sacrifice,'' and we used to have that in the U.S. My parents pulled together with their neighbors during the Great Depression and World War II. Americans looked out for each other in those trying times. Lying and cheating were considered shameful and could get you ostracized. Generosity and honor were celebrated in even the poorest precincts. This is not some romantic remembrance. It's what happened.

Not today. Now it's a free-for-all of getting what you want as quickly as possible. Lying and cheating are considered by many to be useful tools on the road to accomplishment. If society does not hold us responsible for deceit, why should we hold ourselves responsible?

That's a tough question to answer when students see their teachers cooking the books. And God help the public person who addresses the issue. That person will be branded a hypocrite if he or she has any wrongdoing on the resume.

Truth be told, even Moses would have a tough time in this environment.

Veteran TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show ''The O'Reilly Factor.'' Visit his website at www.billoreilly.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/billoreilly.