Federal Judge Upholds Ten Commandments Display, Ruling No State-Sponsored Religion

Wednesday, September 19th 2007, 8:15 pm
By: News On 6

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ A courthouse display featuring the Ten Commandments can stay, a federal judge ruled, rejecting arguments that it endorses religion in violation of the constitution.

The ``Foundations of American Law and Government'' exhibit at the little-used Rowan County Fiscal Court in the rural, eastern Kentucky town of Morehead came under fire in 2001, when the American Civil Liberties Union's state chapter sued.

The display also includes the Mayflower compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. The ACLU argued the display amounted to state-sponsored religion.

In his ruling released Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Karl Forester said the display ``does not have the effect of endorsing religion.'' He cited a virtually identical display in Mercer County that was upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the Morehead case, the ACLU sued Rowan County in 2001, more than two years after the Ten Commandments were posted with the other documents in the Fiscal Court.

Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal defense organization based in Orlando, Fla., called Forester's ruling part of a trend.

``The tide is turning against the ACLU's war on the Ten Commandments,'' Staver said in a statement Wednesday. ``Courts are returning to common sense recognition of the historical role of the Ten Commandments and its influence on American law.''

David Friedman, general counsel for ACLU of Kentucky, said the courts are charged with the tricky task of determining whether government displays of the Ten Commandments are for secular, educational purposes or for promoting religion.

``On the ground, everyone knows what's going on: (County officials) want to put the Ten Commandments up,'' Friedman said. But ``proving that is hard.''