renderings of ancient, Jewish laws: they're all the rage, in some
quarters. Efforts to post them in public buildings, especially public-school
classrooms: they're very fashionable these days, in some quarters.
Take, for instance,
Alabama. On 11 March, Alabama's House of Representatives passed
a bill authorizing a change to the state constitution. The change
would allow the display of the Ten Commandments on all state property,
including public schools. The bill was passed 89 to 0. If passed
by the state senate, a referendum would be put to the voters in
2004. Another house bill would require the Ten Commandments to be
posted in every public school. This all comes after a federal judge
ordered the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to remove
a large, granite monument engraved with the Ten Commandments that
he snuck into the state judicial building in the middle of the night.
in the News: misterthorne.org November 2002 for the story.)
Or consider Elkhart
county in Indiana. County commissioners there approved the display
of the Ten Commandments in the County Office Building. The Indiana
Civil Liberties Union suggested a lawsuit would be the result. Then
a group of citizens said they would pay to defend the commissioners
if the ICLU acted. Last year, the ICLU won a suit against the city
of Elkhart, which had placed a monument bearing the Ten Commandments
in front of city hall. The granite monument was removed last year
after it was ruled unconstitutional.
Or consider Rutherford
county in Tennessee. The county commission posted the Ten Commandments
in the county courthouse last April. The ACLU of Tennessee filed
suit and, last June, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction
ordering their removal. But on 5 March, the judge stayed his ruling.
Why? Because of Liberty Counsel. The religious civil liberties group
is representing the county pro bono. It argued that their removal
should await a decision by a higher court in a very similar case
in Kentucky. There, three counties have appealed a federal court
ruling that they remove the Ten Commandments from public buildings.
Or consider Rhea
county in Tennessee, site of the famed Scopes trial. Last year,
a federal judge ordered the Ten Commandments removed from public
buildings in neighboring Hamilton County. The order comes from a
suit brought by the ACLU of Tennessee. After losing the suit, the
county removed three plaques bearing the Ten Commandments from public
buildings. To pay its legal costs, it sold them at auction.
One of the plaques
went to June Griffin, a citizen of Rhea county. After learning that
hers was the winning bid, Griffin exclaimed, "Praise God. Praise
God." She said her plaque would be posted in a public building in
Rhea county. And she insisted that the county has the right to post
the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Aware of the ACLU's track
record of success in the courts, she warned against any further
legal action to rid the public of displays of ancient laws. "We
will defend them, but it won't be with lawyers," she said. On 21
March, Griffin appeared at a meeting of county commissioners. The
commission expected her to bring the plaque to the meeting. Instead,
she brought a framed 1040 tax form and said she had posted the plaque
in an undisclosed public building. The commissioners declined her
invite to play Hide and Seek.