Law of the Land: Another Bible monument, Another Lawsuit Challenge

Woman objects to King James display near entrance to Houston courthouse
Aug 27, 2003 12:20 PM EDT

Signaling growing antipathy toward Scripture on public property, a Texas woman is suing Harris County, demanding a King James Bible be removed from a monument near the entrance of a courthouse.

According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, Kay Staley, who is both a real estate agent and a lawyer, cites what she sees as growing religious fundamentalism in society.

"It's unconstitutional, and I expect our elected officials to follow the law," Staley, a member of the Houston chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the paper.

The tattered Bible sits in a lighted, 4-foot-tall display case. It was refurbished in 1995 after first being placed near the courthouse in 1956 to honor philanthropist and industrialist William Mosher, the Chronicle reports.

Staley admits the controversy surrounding Judge Roy Moore's fight to keep a monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building prompted her to take action against the county.

County Judge Robert Eckels defended the monument, pointing out that unlike the Alabama display, the Bible is only one component in the tribute to Mosher.

"I've talked to the county attorney and he's ready to defend us," Eckels told the Houston paper. "We believe the monument is appropriate. If someone disagrees, well, that's what courts are for."

The 1995 restoration of the monument was led by District Judge John Devine's court. Devine slammed Staley's effort to remove the Bible.

"We have this insane rush to eliminate every Christian tradition and symbol from our culture," Devine told the paper. "As much as the Bible is a religious text, it is a book of law. It's always had a position in the courtroom since the early 1800s. Witnesses and jurors were sworn in on the Bible.

"The Bible is not welcome anywhere in the American system, it appears," Devine continued. "I think that's outrageous. It's been here 200 years, and now someone has the harebrained idea it doesn't belong."

The judge also mentioned his belief that the separation of church and state is a "falsity," pointing out the concept is supported neither in the Constitution nor Declaration of Independence.

As the sources reported,the Christian Defense Coalition filed a motion Monday in federal court in Mobile, Ala., to block the removal of the 10 Commandments monument by the acting chief justice, Gorman Houston. The lawsuit asserts forced removal of the monument would violate the constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. A hearing is set for today.