Court OKs 10 Commandments display

By Jon Dougherty

A federal judge in Austin, Texas, has ruled that a 42-year-old display of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state Capitol building is not an official endorsement of religion and can remain intact.

U.S. District Judge Harry Lee Hudspeth found that the six-feet-by-three-feet granite memorial – one of 17 monuments on state Capitol grounds – was appropriate as a tool “to promote youth morality and to stop the alarming increase in delinquency,” and served a legitimate secular purpose.

The court also found that no reasonable observer would conclude that the state sought to advance or endorse religion. The Ten Commandments display did not contain the state seal or the Lone Star symbol, as other monuments do.

“The court was clear in noting that the display of the … monument could not be interpreted by a reasonable observer as a state endorsement of religion,” said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal group that defends religious-freedom cases.

“Each of the Ten Commandments has played a significant role in the foundation of our system of law and government,” he said, adding that the biblical edicts have “both a secular and religious aspect.”

Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief with the court in support of the state of Texas.

Thomas Van Orden, a homeless criminal defense lawyer who has temporarily lost his law license, filed suit to have the display removed, claiming it was an official endorsement of religion. He could not be reached for comment.

“To ignore the influence of the Ten Commandments in the founding and shaping of American law and government would require significant historical revisionism,” Staver told WorldNetDaily. He said they “take on an even greater secular aspect when placed in the context of other historical or legal documents, such as in the context of the state Capitol.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also applauded the ruling.

“Today’s court ruling is a victory for those who believe, as I do, that the Ten Commandments are time-tested and appropriate guidelines for living a full and moral life,” he said in a statement. “The Ten Commandments provide a historical foundation for our laws and principles as a free and strong nation, under God, and should be displayed at the Texas Capitol.”

Staver said he was unsure whether Van Orden would appeal.

The display was donated to the state by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1961 as part of a youth guidance project “to give the youth of the nation a code of conduct by which to govern their actions,” said Staver.

The monument sits in a small park-like subsection between the state Supreme Court building and the Capitol.

Display of the Ten Commandments has not fared well recently in other court venues.

On Wednesday, a federal court in Frankfort, Ky., rejected a plan to display a Ten Commandments monument near the state Capitol, saying it was a thinly disguised effort at government promotion of religion. However, the court said the state could display the edicts by presenting them in the context of other historical and non-religious material.

In 1997, then-Alabama state court Judge Roy Moore, over the objections of the American Civil Liberties Union, posted the Ten Commandments in his chambers.

Moore has since been elevated to chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Related stories:

‘With God, all things are possible’

Banned in Kentucky: God, country, etc.

ACLU loses Ten Commandments fight

Ten Commandments go back to school


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