Judge Dismisses Ten Commandments Case, Diverts 2 Others

Associated Press Writer

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit regarding a display incorporating the Ten Commandments at an eastern Kentucky school district and rejected requests for summary judgment in two similar cases.

The order, issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman, ruled the suit against Harlan County school is moot. The plaintiff, a student represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, no longer attends the school.

Coffman refused to grant summary judgment in similar ACLU suits against McCreary and Pulaski counties in eastern Kentucky, where county officials put up the Ten Commandments as part of the "Foundations of American Law and Government" displays in their courthouses.

Addressing both cases in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court said the framed displays in McCreary and Pulaski counties went too far in endorsing religion when they modified the displays with documents demonstrating "America's Christian heritage." Those included the national motto of "In God We Trust" and a version of the Congressional Record declaring 1983 the "Year of the Bible."

However, the high court said Ten Commandments displays on government property are not inherently unconstitutional and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The ACLU sought a permanent injunction on the displays, which Coffman rejected in her ruling Friday. But she stopped short of ruling in favor of the defendants, saying the displays still endorse religion.

Coffman ordered both sides to attend an Oct. 22 conference on the lawsuits with a magistrate judge.

"The only question left is whether motivation (for the displays) is religious or educational in nature," said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal defense organization based in Orlando, Fla., representing Harlan, McCreary, Pulaski and other Kentucky counties in similar cases.

Attorneys for the ACLU of Kentucky didn't return messages from The Associated Press on Tuesday.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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