NC Town Hall Asked to Remove Ten Commandments

A national secularist group has asked a town hall in North Carolina to take down a Ten Commandments display inside its building, alleging it violates the Constitution.

Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation has written to Town Manager Brenda Pittman of Newland asking her to have the Ten Commandments plaque removed from the building of the town hall as it is "unconstitutional."

To add weight to its demand, the letter claims that FFRF has 17,500 members nationwide, including 400 in North Carolina. It also claims that a resident of the state complained about the plaque posted next to the clerk's office since the town hall was built.

"I think it is pretty sorry when people want to take down the things of the Lord," WSOC-TV quoted Marian Sellen, a Newland resident, as saying. "Avery County has more churches and more Christians probably than any other place in the U.S. It would go against our rights if we had to take them down."

However, Patrick C. Elliott, the group's staff attorney, claimed the display of the Ten Commandments is "a blatant violation of the constitution."

"Putting the Ten Commandments up permanently in a town hall like this is unconstitutional and I think the court is going to agree with that," he said.

FFRF believes that "the history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion," and says it works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the "cherished principle" of separation of state and church.

Town's leaders, who are in favor of keeping the display, last week consulted residents to decide how they should respond. "Can we see this being a potential long term issue? Yes. Is it going to be a fight and is there going to be cost? Certainly. We'll see how the public responds to that," said town board member Dave Calvert.

Calvert also said while the town leaders believe in America and support the Constitution, they also represent the people of Newland. "I feel we are side stepping a more serious issue here," he said in a statement. "The commandments are more than Mosaic Law; they are moral guidelines of what is right and wrong. As you take these out of our society, you take our ability to raise our children right. Not upon faith, but what is right and wrong."

Town board members have referred the matter to the town attorney.