Friday, March 7, 2003

Ten Commandments challenge awaits ruling

The Associated Press

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The challenge involving a deposed Ten Commandments display at the Rutherford County Courthouse has been delayed until a federal appeals court rules on a nearly identical case from Kentucky.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Echols of Nashville granted a defense request to take no further action in the Tennessee lawsuit pending a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling expected later this year, said Erik Stanley, an attorney for the county.

Echols issued a preliminary injunction in June that ordered Rutherford County to remove the display. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which filed the lawsuit, had asked Echols to make his order permanent.

But the Liberty Counsel, a Florida religious civil liberties group that is representing the county for free, successfully argued for the delay because the appellate decision will guide its defense, Stanley told the Daily News Journal.

The county commission posted the Ten Commandments in April with the Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and the Preamble of the Tennessee Constitution.

Echols decided the posting was unconstitutional because the commission's intent was entirely religious. Commission votes made after the posting that declared a historical reason were a "sham," the judge said.

The Kentucky case involves appeals by Harlan, Pulaski and McCreary counties of a trial court decision that required they remove the Ten Commandments from public buildings.

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