Court Allows Commandments Display; Calls Church-State Wall 'Tiresome'

A federal appeals court allowed a Ten Commandments display to remain in a Kentucky courthouse on Tuesday, stating that the ''separation of church and state'' was a ''tiresome'' construct.

A federal appeals court allowed a Ten Commandments display to remain in a Kentucky courthouse on Tuesday, stating that the “separation of church and state” was a “tiresome” construct.

This ruling for a display in Mercer County, Ky. was in contrast to a similar case involving two other Kentucky counties where the Supreme Court held that they could not display the Ten Commandments.

“[T]he ACLU makes repeated reference to “separation of church and state,” read the opinion issued by a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which ruled that a Mercer County display was constitutional. “This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.”

The case in question was “American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky v. Mercer County. In the written opinion, the court noted that the ACLU, in arguing against the display had “erroneously-though perhaps intentionally” equated the recognition of religion as the government’s endorsement of religion.

Conservative legal groups said the court correctly noted that religion has a “historically appropriate and traditionally acceptable” role “in honoring American traditions.”

Liberty Counsel President Mathew D. Staver, whose group was involved in the Mercer County case, said that he was beginning to see change in the way the courts handled the issue of church and state.

“Federal courts are beginning to rightfully reject extreme notions of ‘separation of church and state.’ It’s about time that courts begin interpreting the Constitution consistent with its original purpose,” he said. “With the changing of personnel at the U.S. Supreme Court, the trend toward a more historical approach to the First Amendment is well underway.”

The Alliance Dense Fund, which fights religious freedom cases, issued a news release also commending the court’s decision.

"For years, the Alliance Defense Fund has argued against claims by the ACLU and its allies that their interpretation of the Establishment Clause is a correct interpretation. The good news for Americans is that today's ruling says the ACLU's interpretation is outside the Constitution. This is a dramatic rollback of the far-left's misguided legal agenda," said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb in a released statement.

ACLU attorney Scott Greenwood, however, told the Cincinnati enquirer that the decision by the appeals court ignored precedent and that the Mercer County display was nearly identical to other Ten Commandment displays in McCreary and Pulaski counties that were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because they had been intended to promote religion.

“This creates a situation where a court of appeals is essentially ignoring a Supreme Court decision,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face.”

The court, however, noted that while Mercer County concedes that the display itself is identical in all material respects to the third and final displays found unconstitutional in McCreary County, “the County nevertheless argues that its display is constitutional because, in contrast with McCreary County, the predominant purpose of the display in this case is secular.”

“We agree,” the court wrote.

The 6th Circuit court also noted that the local officials mentioned in the Supreme Court’s decision had first hung framed copies of the Ten Commandments in 1999. After the ACLU challenged their displays, the county workers added other historic documents. In Mercer County, however, the historic documents were always there.

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