Friday, April 4, 2003

Adams schools risk contempt charges

Monuments inscribed with Ten Commandments still on display at 4 campuses

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

School officials in Adams County were threatened with contempt of court charges Thursday for failing to remove monuments inscribed with the Ten Commandments from four schools.

The American Civil Liberties Union complained to a federal magistrate in Cincinnati that the school district still has not taken down the monuments despite being ordered to do so nearly nine months ago.

U.S. Magistrate Timothy Hogan ordered the removal last June after ruling that displaying religious symbols such as the Ten Commandments on public school property was unconstitutional.

ACLU lawyers argued in a legal brief Thursday that school officials should immediately remove the monuments or risk contempt of court charges.

"Enough is enough," said Scott Greenwood, the ACLU's lawyer. "The only thing left for them to do is cart the monuments away."

The district's attorney, Francis Manion, said school officials had waited, hoping Hogan would delay enforcement pending an appeal.

But both the judge and the appeals court have refused to grant the delay.

Manion said waiting for those rulings made sense because each of the 3-foot granite tablets weighs about 800 pounds. He said removal would be difficult and the tablets are likely to break, because they are bolted to concrete.

"The question is how much time do we have to do it," Manion said. "It's not like you can just go by and pick them up."

He said school officials decided last month to continue to delay removal because several local ministers involved in the legal battle had indicated they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

They have not done so, however, and Manion conceded that the ACLU's demand for removal under threat of contempt charges will force school officials to act soon.

He said he will recommend that school officials make arrangements for removal.

"I don't see any alternative," Manion said.

He said the school district's appeal in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will continue even if the monuments come down.

The monuments, gifts from ministers in Adams County, about 60 miles east of Cincinnati, have been at the schools since 1997.

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