Tuesday, June 3, 2003

School board to remove tablets

The Associated Press

WEST UNION, Ohio - The Adams County school district, which is challenging a federal judge's ruling that the Ten Commandments are illegally posted on granite monuments on public school grounds, will remove the monuments under the court's order.

The monuments are to be removed on June 9 from the grounds of the four public high schools in the rural southern Ohio county, said the Rev. Ken Johnson, a United Methodist minister who backed the monuments and helped other Adams County clergy raise the money for them. The court's ruling is a disappointment, said Johnson, who is pastor of Seaman United Methodist Church and a spokesman for Adams County for the Ten Commandments, an activist group.

Removing the 3-foot-high granite tablets could cost several thousand dollars, Johnson said Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Timothy Hogan of Cincinnati ruled in June 2002 that displaying the monuments on public property was unconstitutional and a violation of the separation of church and state.

Hogan upheld arguments by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU had sued in 1999 on behalf of Peebles resident Berry Baker, who objected to the display.

Adams County school officials had left the 800-pound monuments in place while they appealed Hogan's ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But the ACLU complained that leaving the monuments there was a continuing violation of the court's ruling. Hogan has ordered them removed on June 9, the first business day after the Adams County schools recess for the summer this week.

The monuments have been in place since 1997. After the ACLU sued, the monument's backers added displays of the Magna Carta and Declaration of Independence, arguing that they and the Ten Commandments were all significant to the early history of the United States. But ACLU lawyers said the addition of the Magna Carta and the Declaration were thinly disguised efforts to turn an illegal religious display on public property into a secular exhibit.

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