Friday, April 27, 2001

Harlan Co. won't agree on displays

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        PIKEVILLE, Ky. — A compromise couldn't be reached with the American Civil Liberties Union to keep displays of the Ten Commandments on schoolhouse walls in Harlan County, an attorney said Thursday.

        Johnnie Turner, attorney for the Harlan County Board of Education, said a federal judge will have to decide the issue.

        Meanwhile, discussions are expected to conclude today between the ACLU and the fiscal courts in McCreary and Pulaski counties.

        The ACLU filed suit against the Harlan County schools and the McCreary and Pulaski fiscal courts last year challenging the constitutionality of hanging the Ten Commandments in public buildings.

        U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman asked the ACLU and attorneys for the local governmental bodies to try to settle the lawsuit. She gave the two sides until April 30 to report back.

        Mr. Turner said a conference call with the ACLU yielded no compromise.

        “Our proposal would be to leave what we have, and maybe add something to satisfy them,” Mr. Turner said. “Their proposal was to take down what we've got and put up something they prefer.”

        Judge Coffman, in a hear ing on March 30, said, if no agreement is reached, she will rule on an ACLU motion for an injunction to remove the displays from each of the locations. After that, she said she would make a summary decision on the lawsuit.

        Judge Coffman had ordered the displays taken down in May after the ACLU filed suit challenging their constitutionality. Officials in each of the counties obeyed her order but replaced the former displays with new ones, including copies of several historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

        Mathew Staver, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel in Orlando, Fla., said he will know today whether a compromise has been reached involving the displays on the courthouse walls.

        Mr. Staver said both counties have agreed to remove scriptural citations from the Ten Commandment displays in the courthouses, but it was unclear whether that would satisfy the ACLU.

        McCreary County Judge-executive Jimmie Greene said one of the ACLU's recommendations was to add photographs and sayings of more than a dozen non-Christian religious figures.

        “Under no circumstances will I compromise what we have,” Mr. Greene said. “I think we've bent over backward already.”


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