The state of Texas, whose lawyer joked about posting a verse from the Quran, is under fire now for a ban on a woman’s yard sign listing the Ten Commandments.
Her attorneys with the non-profit Liberty Institute contend her aim is to exercise “her sincerely held religious belief” in a “God-called mission to share the Ten Commandments.”
On Thursday, Liberty Institute dispatched a letter to officials with the state Department of Transportation, asserting their censorship of the sign belonging to Hemphill, Texas, resident Jeanette Golden runs afoul of a number of laws.
The organization cites the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other Texas laws along with the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Liberty Institute, according to a copy obtained by WND, contends Texas has misapplied the Texas Transportation Code to Golden’s sign, burdening her free exercise of religion.”
The letter is from Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Michael Berry to Joe Weber of the Texas Department of Transportation.
“It is outrageous that TXDOT is preventing Texans from having signs on their own private property,” said Berry. “Religious freedom and private property rights are some of the most sacred rights Texans and Americans enjoy, dating back to the founding of Texas and our nation. It is also shocking that a TXDOT attorney would belittle the religious beliefs of Texans.”
He was referring to a quip in an email exchange among Texas officials discussing how they could take down the Ten Commandments sign.
“Boy are you guys in trouble! I wonder how they’d feel about a quote from the Quran?” said an email from Ron Johnson, associate general counsel of the state highway agency.
The posting of the Ten Commandments in schools, public buildings and even some churches has been opposed in court for years by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union.
In contrast, a nationwide campaign launched by WND co-founder Joseph Farah aims to place the Ten Commandments in front of more American eyes than ever before.
Farah said the commandments are still relevant to American civil life.
“The purpose is to remind the public of the moral law to which all people are accountable whether they like it or not – even the ACLU,” Farah said. “America needs a set of social common denominators if we are to remain a self-governing society.”
He said no such document “has ever been produced by the hand of man.”
“For 3,000 years, empires have come and gone based on their adherence to the Ten Commandments. Millions of people have perished or been brought to salvation by God’s teachings about right and wrong. That’s what this campaign is all about – and I pray Americans will respond in partnership with me in dramatic style.”
Liberty Institute was retained by Golden after the state ruled that her Ten Commandments message was illegal and must be torn down. The decision came after officials earlier had said she needed a permit for it.
According to an email from the TXDOT associate general counsel, “the sign cannot be permitted” and “no permit is possible.”
Last August, Golden bought a six-foot by 12-foot sign listing the Ten Commandments, then placed it on her own private property.
Liberty Institute told to Weber to consider the letter the official notice of the constitutional violations.
“Mrs. Golden is called by God to a ministry of placing the Ten Commandments on her private property in full view of the public for the purposes of advancing her religious calling and this action is advancing her sincerely held religious belief in this specific God called mission to share the Ten Commandments in this manner with as many people seeing the display as possible,” it said.
She originally listed her source on the sign, a ministry called Godss10.com, but removed the reference when state officials complained it was commercial.
However, she soon discovered that state officials simply refused to allow the sign on state Highway 21.
The state ordered her to remove the source because it was deemed “outdoor advertising” and she would need a permit.
Then the story changed again, and this time there were requirements that the sign be located within 800 feet of two Certified Industrial Activities, and it would need to be sized to meet state rules.
Texas also wanted Golden to get an outdoor advertising license, at $125, an annual renewal fee of $75, a $2,500 surety bond, a permit application $100, its annual renewal of $75 or face fines of up to $1,000 per day.
Then the state changed course yet again, with a statement that the sign “cannot be permitted” under any circumstances.
“Such a total ban on Mrs. Golden having a sign or imposing additional restrictions is a substantial burden on her religious calling and mission of displaying the Ten Commandments in the manner she was called to do on her private property and the state has no compelling interests to support such a total bans,” the letter said.
The legal team also noted there are other signs along that section of highway that the state is not addressing.
The WND campaign to post Ten Commandments already has put the message before residents of Colorado:
Long Beach, Calif.:
Lynwood, Calif., near Los Angeles:
And Las Vegas:
See the video about the effort:
"The problem is America is not limited to atheists, agnostics, cults and non-believers," said Farah. "In fact, the biggest problem America has is with those who call themselves believers but who act no differently than the worldliest individuals on the planet. You can call these people backslidden. You can call them false converts. Or you can call them undiscipled, nominal believers. What they all have in common is they are not in obedience to God. They are not even trying to follow the most basic moral law, as Jesus and the prophets all instructed."
"The Ten Commandments have been banished from our schools," said Farah. "They’ve been banished from our courtrooms and law schools. They've even been banished from some of our churches and synagogues. Look what has become of America since. Maybe it's time to roll them out on highways and byways, in big cities and small towns so no one is without excuse as to the moral code the One True God gave us to govern ourselves."
Farah and WND are providing seed money for the launch and publicity and hope that Jews and Christians alike – all worshipers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – will donate money to the campaign to erect the messages on public billboards from coast to coast.
"I don't know what the result will be," said Farah. "But I know America badly needs a reminder of who guides the universe and the affairs of men and what He requires of us all. Americans need awareness of their sins before they can repent of them. And until we repent of our sins, America's fate has been cast to the wind. America needs the Ten Commandments."
You can donate to the campaign online at the WND Superstore or write checks to WND with a notation "Ten Commandments campaign." Checks can be sent to WND.com Inc., 2020 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Suite 351, Washington, D.C. 20006.
If you'd like to learn how to sponsor a billboard in your community, email TenCommandments@wnd.com.
"If you're concerned about the future of America, heed God's word in II Chronicles 7:14," said Farah: "It says, 'If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.' But if we don't understand our sin, which is defined by the Ten Commandments, how can we turn from our wicked ways? And how will God hear us? And how will He heal our land?"
WND believes the Ten Commandments are the glue that hold society together. If they are forgotten, dismissed or ignored, America will cease being a self-governing nation, as its Founding Fathers intended.
Listen to what others have said and written about the Ten Commandments:
- "The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion." – John Adams
- "If God would have wanted us to live in a permissive society He would have given us Ten Suggestions and not Ten Commandments." – Zig Ziglar
- "We might come closer to balancing the budget if all of us lived closer to the Commandments and the Golden Rule." – Ronald Reagan
- "One of the great questions of philosophy is, do we innately have morality, or do we get it from celestial dictation? A study of the Ten Commandments is a very good way of getting into and resolving that issue." – Christopher Hitchens (noted atheist)
- "The Ten Commandments are the divinely revealed law." – Roy Moore
- "Congress should pass legislation to remove from the federal courts their jurisdiction to hear these outrageous challenges to the Ten Commandments and the Pledge of Allegiance." – Phyllis Schlafly
- "Man has made 32 million laws since the Commandments were handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai … but he has never improved on God's law." – Cecil B. DeMille
- "I believe if more American children read the Ten Commandments and are taught what they mean, they will predictably engage in less crime." – Gary Bauer