THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
LEGAL DEVELOPMENTS: YEAR 2004
Read about events from other years
Legal challenges and court decisions:
|2004-JAN-30: OH: Adams County requests review of appeals court
panel ruling: A group of Christian ministers in rural Adams County,
about 60 miles east of Cincinnati OH, donated four 3-foot-tall 800 pound
granite monuments which contained the text of the Ten Commandments to the
Ohio Valley School Board. They were installed on public school grounds.
Berry Baker, a resident of Peebles OH launched a lawsuit against the
Adams County / Ohio Valley School board with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union. The County lost at trial on
2002-JUN. However, the school board did not remove the monuments until
2003-JUN, and then only after the ACLU asked a federal magistrate to
rule that the board was in contempt of court. The board and county lost
again on 2004-JAN-12 when a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld the lower court decision. The
County has now requested a review by the full court. Scott Greenwood,
general counsel for the ACLU of Ohio, noted that the board's efforts are
costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal costs. He suggested that
the board simply comply with the courts' rulings.
|2004-FEB-18: NE: Court orders Ten
Commandments monument removed from park: A panel of the 8th
Circuit court of Appeals ruled that the Ten Commandments
display adjacent to a city park in Plattsmouth was unconstitutional.
This is an unusual case, because the display was actually located on
private land owned by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. This was the group
that installed almost 4,000 similar monuments in various courthouses and
parks in the U.S. The Order's headquarters is located in Plattsmouth.
They own a parcel of land across the street from their building that
abuts the park. But to the casual observer, their parcel and the park
are a seamless unity. Most people would assume that the monument is
actually on city park property. The full court has vacated the ruling
and decided to rehear the case. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf ruled
that the display "...conveys a message that Christianity and Judaism
are favored religions." The display also includes two Stars of
David, the main Jewish symbol. 2,3|
|2004-MAR-7: IN: Ten Commandments marker
destroyed: A Jeep Cherokee filled with "young white males"
drove over the curb in front of the Eagles Lodge in Anderson, IN
and broke a 6 by 4 ft limestone marker bearing the Ten
Commandments. The monument ended up in 12 pieces and cannot be
repaired. The marker has an interesting history. It was donated to the
state in 1958 by the Eagles Lodge. In 1991, Stephen M. Schroeder
of Indianapolis allegedly damaging it five times when it was located on
the lawn of the statehouse. Found guilty at trial, he refused on
principle to pay a $2,500 fine and thus spent 90 days in jail. That time, the
marker split into two pieces. It was repaired in 1998, and installed
at the Eagles Lodge. According to Ruth Holladay of the Indianapolis
Star, Schroeder has a particular hatred for things Pagan. He said:
"Right above the proclamation 'The Lord my God is One God' was
a breasted sun god, a triangle with a crescent moon on top, an
all-seeing eye with breasts. It was the same graven image on [Pagan]
altars in Carthage." 4|
|2004-MAR-10: MS: House votes to allow
Ten Commandments to be posted in public buildings: The Mississippi
House voted 94 to 18 to allow the Decalogue to be posted in any public
building in the state.
Rep. Willie Bailey, (D) said the bill could cost
school districts and local governments millions of dollars to
defend the practice in lawsuits that they had no possibility of winning.
He said: "A lot of the people who are supporting this don't even
practice the Ten Commandments. A lot of the authors don't even practice
the Ten Commandments. But yet we want to force it on everybody else
because we think that it's the right thing to do that we're showing our
religion. Our religion has to start in the heart somewhere." The
bill was amended to also allow public buildings to post the national
motto "In God We Trust" and the Beatitudes, listed in the book of
Matthew. State law already requires "In God We Trust" to be
posted in every public school classroom.
|2004-MAR-15: MN: Duluth city council
votes to remove Ten Commandments monument: By a close vote of 5 to
4, the city council voted to remove its Ten Commandments monument from
the city hall lawn. This will avoid a federal lawsuit filed by the
Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. The seven-foot monument was a gift
from the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and has been in place since
1957-OCT. 6 A Save the Ten Commandments Committee
was formed to buy the monument and relocate it to the nearby Canal Park.
They are also initiating a referendum to have the city land where the
monument had stood turned over to St. Louis County so that they can "...put
another monument up -- maybe one that we can light up." They have
obtained 3,500 signatures and have raised $20,000. 7|
This essay continues below.
|2004-JUL-11: OH: Judge to remove Ten Commandments from courtroom:
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Richland County
Common Pleas Judge James DeWesse to remove the Ten Commandments from
his courtroom. Jeff Gamso, legal director of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio -- the group which initiated the lawsuit --
said: "My expectation is we're not going to keep doing case after
case. At some point it really does become clear that they can't do this
|2004-JUL-17: USA: Monument to tour the country: Former Chief
Justice Roy Moore has given the Texas-based group Veterans
Standing for God and Country permission to take his Ten Commandments
monument from its storage area in the Alabama Judicial Building on tour
around the U.S., ending in Washington, DC. Moore has asked Congress to
allow the monument to be displayed at the Capitol building. He wrote: "At
a time when our sacred institution of marriage is being assaulted by
those who would deny the law of God, Americans need to be reminded of
our moral foundation. I have agreed to allow the Veterans Standing for
God and Country to display the monument in various locations across the
country." A member of the group, Wiley Drake, who is the pastor of
the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, CA said: "We
need to bring back to the attention of the American public that they
need to acknowledge God in public because it is absolutely necessary for
this nation to survive." John Giles, president of the Christian
Coalition of Alabama, hopes that the monument will eventually be on
display in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. If that cannot
happen, his second wish is that "...Congress will graciously welcome
the foundation of our moral law in our nation's Capitol."
|2004-SEP-15: NE: Case involving monument in
Plattsmouth: The plaintiff in this case is "John Doe," an Atheist who
lives in Plattsmouth -- a town of about 7,000 located twenty miles south of
Omaha. He has remained anonymous out of fear of retaliation by some locals. He
sees the monument daily as he walks to work and occasionally when he attends
events in the city's Memorial Park where the monument is located. He won
his case before U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln, NE., and later
before a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judge Kopf ruled that the monument violated the principle of separation of
church and state and "conveys a message that Christianity and Judaism are
favored religions." The monument contains the text of the Ten
Commandments and two Jewish Stars of David. The case is now being
heard before the entire Court of Appeals. Francis Manion, a lawyer for the
American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), who represents the city claimed
that the monument was simply a gift from a civic group, the Fraternal Order
of Eagles, and not an endorsement of a religious way of life. He said that "We
were able to present our case in a manner that urged the court to view the
monument in Plattsmouth as a reflection of the history and heritage of our
nation - a monument that does not violate the constitution." But Amy
Miller, a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who
represents the plaintiff claimed that the monument is "ample evidence of a
Christian purpose." She said that the debate is about religion. The
plaintiff has received death threats. When another ACLU representative tried to
address the city council, he was shouted down by the audience. She said:
"Essentially you're left with: these are the words of God."
|2004-SEP-16: OH: Case continues:
Attorneys for Judge DeWeese have appealed the ruling of a panel of the
6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
It will now be heard by the full court. DeWeese said: "It's very
difficult to get a rehearing, but we are hopeful because the dissenting
opinion was very articulate. They started to recognize some of the
free-speech arguments." He has taken down the Ten Commandments
in his courtroom and replaced them with an argument in their favor: "The
Ten Commandments are symbolic in Western Civilization of absolute
duties, which apply to all people. They were part of the English Common
Law. They were included in the legal codes of our American colonies."
The statement continues by saying that the lack of absolute values
endangers everyone: "It allows a student at Columbine High School to
decide that his hurt feelings are more important than classmates' lives.
It allowed Adolf Hitler to decide that Jews, retarded people and gypsies
were inferior human beings who deserved extermination....Nevertheless,
the text of the Ten Commandments is considered so dangerous that it has
been censored from this courtroom by a federal judge. If you want to see
what the Commandments say, you'll have to look in a Bible (Exodus 20) or
an encyclopedia." 10 It is perhaps notable that
Judge DeWeese does not mention two additional groups specifically
targeted for extermination by the Nazi Holocaust:
homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses. It is
unclear why Judge DeWeese believes that everyone, including Buddhists,
Hindus, Wiccans, etc. are expected to worship Yahweh, as commanded by
the Decalogue or suffer retaliation by God against their children,
grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.|
|2004-OCT-12: U.S. Supreme Court agrees to rule on Ten Commandments cases: In a surprise announcement, the court
decided to consider the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government land and buildings. The last time that they ruled on this
topic was in 1980 when they banned posting of the Decalogue in public school classrooms. They will review two cases: One is a six-feet tall monument on
the state Capitol grounds in Texas, donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. and a ruling by a lower court that barred posting the Decalogue
as one component in a cultural display in Kentucky courthouses. The two cases are: Van Orden v. Perry, 03-1500, and McCreary County v. ACLU, 03-1693.
Related essays on this site
- "Adams Co. board wants review of 10 Commandments ruling,"
Associated Press, 2004-JAN-31, at:
- "Sekulow Weighs in on Ten Commandments Battles," CBN News,
- Dave Bohon. "Duluth faces lawsuit over Ten Commandments display,"
Minnesota Family Council, undated, at:
- Ruth Halladay, "On Commandments monument, he finds a pagan plot,"
Indianapolis Star, 2004-MAR-16, at:
- Emily Pettus, "Miss. House OKs bill for Ten Commandments in public
buildings," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2004-MAR-11, at:
- "Duluth to remove Ten Commandments monument," Associated Press,
- "Ten Commandments monument for sale to highest bidder in Duluth,
Minnesota. Sale Is The Result of Federal Lawsuit With Civil Liberties Union,"
Assist Mews Service, 2004-JUN-30, at:
- Jim Siegel, "Ten Commandments debate far from over,"
TimesRecorder, 2004-JUL-18, at:
- Jannell McGrew, "Moore to move monument," Montgomery Advertiser,
- "DeWeese wants Commandments back in his courtroom frame," News
Journal, 2004-SEP-16, at:
- "Court hears arguments in Ten Commandments case," Omaha World-Herald,
- "Supreme Court jumps into issue of Ten Commandments displays,"
Associated Press, 2004-OCT-12, at:
Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2004-FEB-1
Latest update: 2004-OCT-13
Author: B.A. Robinson