LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A federal court in Lexington, Ky., has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the ACLU challenging a display of the Ten Commandments at the Mercer County, Ky., courthouse, the Jay Sekulow-led American Center for Law and Justice reported Jan. 23.
"This is a tremendous affirmation that the legal attack aimed at removing the Ten Commandments from places like the Mercer County courthouse is legally flawed and without merit," said Francis J. Manion, ACLJ senior counsel who is representing Mercer County in defending the display.
"The court is extremely clear that the display does not violate the constitution and merely acknowledges the role that the Ten Commandments has played in the formation of our nation's heritage and history. This decision is an important victory underscoring the fact that such a display is an acknowledgement of history, not an endorsement of religion."
In a six-page opinion filed with the court Jan. 22 and released to the ACLJ Jan. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Karl S. Forester granted an ACLJ motion for summary judgment, which dismisses the suit. The ACLU sued Mercer County after the county put up a display at the courthouse, which included the Ten Commandments among a series of historical and legal texts.
In the opinion, Judge Forester said that "the display clearly has a legitimate secular purpose of, including but not limited to, acknowledging the historical influence of the Commandments on the development of this country's laws, and the record is devoid of any evidence indicating a religious purpose by the government." The court also concluded "the primary purpose or effect of the display is not to endorse religion as a matter of law."
The decision follows a ruling by Forester last August rejecting a motion from the ACLU asking for a preliminary injunction to remove the display. The ACLU had not shown a "likelihood of success on the merits," Forester stated.
The American Center for Law and Justice, based in Virginia Beach, Va., is involved in more than 15 cases around the country defending public displays of the Ten Commandments. The ACLJ's Web address is www.aclj.org.
By Albert H. Lee