State Legislator Frustrated With Delays in Building Ten Commandments Monument

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Lawmakers who rushed to pass a measure that allows a Ten Commandments monument to be displayed at the Capitol before last year's election now are expressing frustration that their plan still hasn't been carried out.

"The General Assembly spoke on this issue," said state Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington. "The governor signed the bill. Whoever is charged with doing this needs to be working post haste."

Stymied by a federal court judge, Kentucky officials have been unable to return the 6-foot-tall granite monument to the Capitol lawn.

Tom Self, an attorney for the Kentucky Justice Cabinet, said the monument can't be brought back until U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood is convinced it isn't being done as an endorsement of religion as the American Civil Liberties Union contends.

Early last year, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation that called not only for the commandments to be put back on the Capitol grounds, but also for the posting of "In God We Trust" on the wall above the dais in the House and Senate chambers.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher, flanked by state legislators, signed the measure into law in a Capitol ceremony in April 2006. He said the display would be constitutional because it would be part of a historical exhibit.

House Speaker Jody Richards said lawmakers have done all they can do to get the monument back to the Capitol grounds, and now have no choice but to wait for the legal hurdles to be overcome.

As soon as lawmakers passed the bill last year, the American Civil Liberties Union immediately voiced opposition, both in public comments and court documents.

David Friedman, an attorney for the organization, said an injunction prohibits the state from returning the monument without first getting the judge's approval.

"Our country reveres religious freedom," Friedman said. "In our system, the way we ensure maximum religious freedom for us all is by having government remain neutral. Government can't tell us what to believe or how to worship."

Kentucky has been at the center of legal fights in recent years on the posting of the commandments in public buildings. In one case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled displays inside courthouses in McCreary and Pulaski counties were unconstitutional. In another, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said a similar display in the Mercer County Courthouse is constitutional because it included other historical documents.

The Ten Commandments monument at the heart of the Frankfort debate had been donated to the state in 1971 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. It was removed from the Capitol grounds and placed in storage in the mid-1980s during a construction project. When political leaders tried to display it again in 2000, the American Civil Liberties Union went to court, claiming the monument was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The ACLU won an injunction in the case.

After that, the state gave the monument back to the Eagles. It now has a prominent position at the organization's lodge in Hopkinsville, fully visible alongside Fort Campbell Boulevard, the main road leading to one of Army's most storied military installations.

The state's proposal is to display the Ten Commandments monument in a memorial garden alongside other displays of historical significance to Kentucky. The difficulty has been finding the other displays.

Jill Midkiff, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Division of Historic Properties, said a public appeal for historical exhibits that could be included in the memorial garden yielded no results. That left the state with little to add to the proposed garden, other than a replica of the Liberty Bell and a memorial honoring those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Self said attorneys for the state won't ask the federal judge to lift the injunction until they're confident the memorial garden can pass constitutional muster. That means locating other memorials and monuments of historical significance to place in the memorial garden.

Lee said the commandments are of historical significance to the state and nation and should be displayed in accordance with the Supreme Court rulings.

"It is proper to display them, as long as you're not promoting a religion," he said. "We need to be vigorous in our response to anything the ACLU does in this context."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
AP-NY-06-03-07 1300EDT

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  • by Lowell Location: Maryland on Jun 9, 2007 at 10:30 AM
    The most compelling evidence against placing the 10C at the Capitol is the fact that they are hell-bent on placement of the 10C, but are having to scrounge to find anything else "worthy" of placement. If it was all about history, they'd have a number of items lined up, but they don't. Just the 10C. If that doesn't belie a religious agenda, I don't know what does.
  • by Shane Location: Frankfort on Jun 4, 2007 at 05:08 AM
    Although I don't always agree with the ACLU either (although I am a member), I have to say that I agree on this one. Any governmental body, be it a city council, state legislature, or federal government can NOT endorse any particular religion and try to further that religion by stuffing it down others' throats. It is wrong and despicable to think that because there are more Christians in the US than any other religion, that we can basically "endorse" Christianity as the official religion and force everyone else to follow suit. Stan Lee is an idiot who wears his somewhat distorted form of Jesus Christ on his sleeve. Jesus never went around attempting to force people to follow him...he laid it all out and gave them a choice, just like God gave all humans a choice through free-will. If you reject Him, game over. If you accept Him, then you get to spend eternity with Jesus. I gave my life to Christ about 6 months ago and things couldn't be better. But I know that to get others to receive the gift He has to offer, you have to do so with compassion, love, and level-headedness...all the things Christ displayed when He was on earth. Trying to "show off your beliefs" by putting a concrete monument up is a slap in the face to what Jesus tried to teach us throughout the Bible. It also may be a form of idolatry if you put more effort into that monument than you do Jesus Christ.
  • by Catholic Boy Location: Lexington on Jun 4, 2007 at 04:41 AM
    While I really do not agree with anything the ACLU gets involved in, I will go as far as saying I don't believe the posting of the Ten Commandments will change anybody's way of thinking. Just because something is put in plain site for others to see, doesn't mean it will be adheared to. We have stop signs, speed limit signs, yield signs, do not enter signs, etc., and people still refuse to obey those signs and disobeying most of those will either get your a ticket, fine or jail time. Even though I believe in the Ten Commandments, their posting in a public place will not persuade anyone to act accordingly. I was in the hospital the other day and a sign in the waiting room was clearly visible and stated "TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONE AS THEY INTERFERE WITH MEDICAL EQUIPMENT" I counted six people talking on cell phones. I rest my case.


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