A battle over the display of historical documents, including the Ten Commandments, is raging in Kentucky even though the U.S. Supreme Court has said they do not necessarily have a religious purpose and can be constitutional.
Experts with Liberty Counsel now have filed arguments with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the decalogue in a lawsuit by the ACLU that resulted in a ban on Foundations of American Law and Government displays in McCreary and Pulaski counties.
The ACLU first filed suit in 1999 over the display that now includes the Ten Commandments, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the National Motto, the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Liberty Counsel ultimately argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 on the dispute, but the cases ended up back before Kentucky District Court Judge Jennifer Kaufman since the Supreme Court only resolved the question of a preliminary injunction, Liberty Counsel said.
Mathew Staver, chief of the advocacy law firm, said there have been significant changes in that court since the earlier opinion, since Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor have been replaced by Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
But Kaufman chose to side with the ACLU in its proposal to banish the reflection of the nation’s Christian heritage among other historic documents.
There also was considerable concern over the Supreme Court’s 2005 handling of the Ten Commandments, since another display, in Texas, that included the Old Testament law was upheld by the high court.
“In the Texas case of Van Orden v. Perry, the court upheld a Ten Commandments monument that was on the state capital grounds without any controversy for about 40 years,” the law firm said.
However, in the Kentucky case, “the court ruled that prior actions of the county officials, when they erected a stand-alone display of the Ten Commandments, indicated the county officials had a predominantly religious purpose in erecting the displays,” the law firm said.
“The ACLU’s Ten Commandments clearinghouse agenda will hit rough waters when the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Staver. “The tide has turned at the high court.
“Since 2005 the ACLU has lost three consecutive Ten Commandments cases at the appellate court level. They have refused to ask the Supreme Court to take these cases, because they know that court is no longer hostile to the Ten Commandments,” Staver said. “Anyone with a little background in the history of America knows that the classic example of the rule of law is at home in a court of law.”
The case notes that the displays that drew objections first included only a Ten Commandments. Then the displays were changed to a large Ten Commandments surrounded by smaller representations of other documents.
The latest includes a variety of documents all displayed in an equal size.
“The Supreme Court cautioned that its ruling should be read narrowly so as not to categorically preclude the integration of the Ten Commandments into a governmental display on law or American history nor to doom all future displays as forever tainted by the past,” the appeal said.
The appeal said the defendant counties specifically repealed their earlier displays to create the new ones: “Without stating why these measures were insufficient or what measures would be sufficient, the district court said these actions were not enough to ‘purge the taint’ of religious purpose found to be present in the counties’ first two displays. …”