Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Commandments still up

Some counties appear to ignore ouster order

The Associated Press

        LONDON, Ky. — Nearly one-fourth of Kentucky's counties have displays of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, despite a judge's order that has brought them down in other counties, according to a newspaper's survey.

        The review of all 120 Kentucky counties by the Louisville Courier-Journal found that the commandments are posted in public areas of 27 of the state's county courthouses — and in some cases have been for years.

        But the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky is preparing to file lawsuits to have the commandments either removed or blended with displays that don't violate the U.S. Constitution.

        In the past two years, two federal judges in Kentucky have ruled in the ACLU's favor three times on the issue. David Friedman, general counsel for the state ACLU, said he will soon challenge other displays.

        In the earlier cases, the ACLU challenged displays in two courthouses and one school district.

        The attention given to the matter has left some local officials uncomfortable, although they say they remain committed to displaying the commandments.

        Laurel County Judge-executive Jimmy Williams, an ordained Missionary Baptist minister, said he didn't fear a lawsuit when he erected a 4-foot-tall copy of the commandments in his courthouse two years ago.

        “I was afraid not to, because it was the Lord who inspired and compelled me to do it,” Mr. Williams said. “I love the Lord, but I fear him, too.”

        Kentucky has long been at the center of the Ten Commandments display debate. In 1978, the General Assembly passed a law requiring posting the commandments in schools. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

        U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman issued preliminary orders this year to remove Ten Commandments displays in Pulaski and McCreary county courthouses and in Harlan County schools.

        U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood struck down state legislation that called for erecting a monument to the Ten Commandments on the state Capitol lawn.


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