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Phentex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 12:03 PM
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Some good news from the bible belt....
Barrow County officials have taken down a framed copy of the Ten Commandments from a hallway in the County Courthouse after a federal judge ordered the document removed because its display violated the U.S. Constitution.

Senior U.S. District Judge William C. O'Kelley ordered the county Monday to "immediately remove the Ten Commandments picture currently hanging on the wall of the breezeway" of the courthouse in Winder, the Barrow County seat, about 50 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.

This copy of the Ten Commandments has been removed from the County Courthouse.

Doug Garrison, chairman of the County Commission, said he was disappointed by the order, but "the judge has much more authority than I or the county do. We will comply."

"Now all residents of Barrow County, no matter what their religious beliefs, will feel welcome in their own county," said Margaret Garrett, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which led the fight to get the commandments removed.

O'Kelley forbade "any substantially similar and unconstitutional presentation of the Ten Commandments" and ordered the county to pay $150,000 in attorneys' fees by Aug. 10 to the ACLU, which represented an anonymous citizen who filed suit against Barrow in 2003.

An anonymous donor gave the Ten Commandments to the county in 2002, and officials put it up in the courthouse. The next year, the ACLU and another anonymous person sued the county in federal court.

Last year the County Commission declined to continue to spend public money on the case. A nonprofit group, Ten Commandments Georgia, Inc., raised more than $200,000 and agreed to pay for Herbert Titus, an attorney from McLean, Va., to represent the county in the fight. Titus did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Jody Hice, head of the Ten Commandments group and a pastor in Winder, said he was "extremely disappointed." He said his group would pay all of Titus' fees but would not pay the $150,000. "We're not going to pay the ACLU," Hice said.

Garrison said the commission would decide at its Aug. 9 meeting whether the county would pay the fees.

The seemingly small issue, whether a piece of paper can hang on a wall iof a government building, is in fact part of a national debate regarding the U.S. Constitution and religion in American society.

For years, Christian groups have been pressing to maintain displays of the Ten Commandments or put up new ones on government property, citing what they call the nation's Judeo-Christian heritage.

The Ten Commandments, which Jews and Christians believe were given by God to Moses, are a list of rules that they believe God told followers to obey. They include prohibitions on killing, stealing, lying, swearing, adultery and praying to false gods, as well as exhortations to honor parents and keep the sabbath.

Opponents of displaying the commandments on public property cite the nation's long-standing separation of church and state. They argue that government displays of specific religious documents amount to implicit endorsements of those religions, which runs counter to the intention of a section of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

The national debate reached a crescendo in late June, when the U.S. Supreme Court forbade two courthouses in rural Kentucky from displaying framed copies of the Ten Commandments that officials had put up six years ago. At the same time, the court ruled that a large granite monument in Texas, put up more than four decades ago, could remain because it is less overtly religious.

In recent years, several communities in Georgia attempted to place copies of the Ten Commandments on public property. In 2004, Habersham County lost a legal fight with the ACLU and removed its display from the courthouse and a public swimming pool.

Garrison, flooded Tuesday with media calls, said that, as a Christian, he took the ruling in stride.

"I'd rather have in my heart than on my wall," he said.

AJC article
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progressoid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 05:06 PM
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1. $150,000 in attorney's fees!
On top of the $200,000 they already spent...That's funny (in a vindictive sort of way)! :rofl:

Just the threat of that kind of financial burden could be enough for a lot of smaller communities to not fight it and just comply.
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