Saturday, November 23, 2002

Portman backs schools in legal fight

Adams County district wants to show Ten Commandments

By Stephenie Steitzer
Enquirer contributor

[photo] A monument of the Ten Commandments sits in front of North Adams High School with other law and government monuments.
(Enquirer file photo)
| ZOOM |
WEST UNION - Local and national religious leaders who favor public displays of the Ten Commandments hope U.S. Rep. Rob Portman can be their new champion.

Mr. Portman, R-Terrace Park, was in Adams County on Friday to accept a plaque of the Ten Commandments and to show his support for the Adams County/Ohio Valley School Board, which was ordered by a federal appeals court this week to remove the Ten Commandments from school grounds.

"It is the basic moral foundation that does not promote one religion over another," Mr. Portman said.

Adams County religious leaders have teamed up with the National Clergy Council to lobby Congress to pass a bill that would let states decide whether to allow public displays of the Ten Commandments.

Mr. Portman and the leaders said they are hopeful that a more conservative Congress will pass the bill next year.

The Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the council that represents 5,000 Catholic, Evangelical and Orthodox clergy, said Adams County is not alone in its fight.

The National Clergy Council has presented plaques of the Ten Commandments to President Bush, Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

"The people of this county are not alone," the Rev. Mr. Schenck said. "There are millions of Americans who stand with them."

The Rev. Mr. Schenck and the Adams County religious leaders also presented Mr. Portman with a petition signed by 100,000 people across the country who support the Adams County fight.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 this week to uphold a federal court's June decision calling for the removal of the 3-foot-high monuments from the grounds of four Adams County high schools.

U.S. Magistrate Timothy Hogan ruled that the display is unconstitutional because it appears to give government approval to a particular religious viewpoint.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued in 1999 on behalf of Peebles resident Berry Baker. Scott Greenwood, general counsel of the ACLU of Ohio, said Tuesday's decision implies the defendants don't have a good argument in their appeal.

"This is not the end of the road, but it certainly is a milepost in that direction," he said.

The Adams County monuments were a gift from ministers in the county, about 60 miles east of Cincinnati, and have been at the schools since 1997.

The monuments stand in front of Manchester High School in Manchester, North Adams High School in Seaman, Peebles High School in Peebles and West Union High School in West Union.

Adams County/Ohio Valley School District Superintendent Pat Kimble said the school board will probably vote Monday night to appeal this week's decision.

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