A federal judge has rejected a demand from the American Civil Liberties Union that she censor a document posted in an Ohio courtroom titled “Philosophies of Law in Conflict” because the Ten Commandments are included.
“It is truly unfortunate that the ACLU apparently has nothing better to do than to file baseless charges against a dedicated public servant like Judge [James] DeWeese,” said Francis J. Manion, a senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.
“A first-year law student – looking at the facts and law of this case – could have told the ACLU that there never was a legal basis for this ridiculous contempt charge,” Manion said. “We’re pleased that the [federal] court acted expeditiously in tossing out this latest gambit in the ACLU’s ongoing harassment of Judge DeWeese.”
The conflict began when the ACLU sued DeWeese for posting a copy of the Decalogue in his courtroom, resulting in a judge ordering that the document could not be posted by itself.
Philosophies posted in an Ohio courtroom
Subsequently, DeWeese posted the “Philosophies of Law in Conflict,” a document that includes the Ten Commandments along with a list of “humanist precepts” and a commentary by the judge about the two conflicting philosophies.
The Ten Commandments state the biblical foundation for morality, including: You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not kill. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery.
The humanist precepts include: The universe is self-existent and was not created. Man is the product of a cosmic accident, and there is nothing higher than man, Ethics depend on the person and the situation. There is no absolute truth. The meaning of law evolves.
In response, the ACLU requested that DeWeese be held in contempt for posting the Ten Commandments. However, the judge who originally ordered the first Ten Commandments display removed said the current display was perfectly legal.
“The court can find no principled basis upon which to find that, or even fully consider whether, the new display is constitutionally impermissible,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen O’Malley in her opinion.
She held DeWeese was not in contempt of her prior order and further said the ACLU’s attempt to censor the philosophies of law was “misplaced.”
The ACLU had accused DeWeese of putting up the comparative display in violation of O’Malley’s 2002 injunction against the Ten Commandments under the caption “Rule of Law.”
The ACLU claimed DeWeese was in “public defiance” of the court order and was “undermining the administration of justice.”
O’Malley found no validity to the ACLU argument.
“It was clear from the start of this latest episode in the ACLU’s harassment of Judge DeWeese that the ACLU was choosing to ignore current law regarding public displays that include the Decalogue in an educational or historical setting,” Manion said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has made it perfectly clear – in cases brought by the ACLU itself – that government officials are permitted to discuss, acknowledge and display the Ten Commandments in a context that underscores the role played by Decalogue in ‘history, civilization or ethics.’ Any reasonable person can see that this is precisely what Judge DeWeese’s current display does.”
Along with the displays of the differing faith systems, DeWeese has added his own commentary.
“All law is legislated morality,” he writes. “The only question is whose morality. Because all morality is based on faith, there is no such thing as religious neutrality in law or morality.”
He continued, “Ultimately there are only two views. Either God is the final authority, and we acknowledge his unchanging standards of behavior. Or man is the final authority and standards of behavior change at the whim of individuals or societies.”
“Our Founders saw the necessity of moral absolutes. President John Adams said, ‘We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other,’” he continued.
“The Declaration of Independence acknowledges God as Creator, Lawgiver, ‘Supreme Judge of the World,” and the one who providentially superintends the affairs of man,” he said. “I join the Founders in personally acknowledging the importance of Almighty God’s fixed moral standards for restoring the moral fabric of this nation.”
An image of DeWeese’s commentary has been posted on the ACLJ website.
DeWeese told the Mansfield News Journal the ACLU simply was trying to silence his speech.
“It’s really about a debate of philosophies and how that affects our criminal caseloads,” he said. “I put both sides up. People can make their own decisions.”