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ACLU sues Tennessee county over commandments displays

By The Associated Press

02.02.02

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The American Civil Liberties Union sued Jan. 29 to ban Ten Commandments displays in three Hamilton County government buildings — a fight welcomed by supporters of the postings.

The director for the Tennessee ACLU, Hedy Weinberg, said in a statement announcing the federal lawsuit that displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings is "divisive to religious diversity" and a threat to religious freedom.

"It's not a surprise," said Charles Wysong Jr., a spokesman for Ten Commandments-Tennessee, a group that supports the displays. "I am glad it is happening because we are not going to resolve this issue without a fight, and you might as well get to the fight."

Wysong said his group intends to pay any legal expenses involved in defending the displays.

Weinberg said the ACLU sued "to ensure that individuals have the right to decide for themselves whether to practice a particular religious faith or to post the Ten Commandments in their homes or in their businesses."

One of the plaintiffs, the Rev. Roland Johnson Jr., pastor of Phillips Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Chattanooga, said it is a "dangerous thing when politicians attempt to co-opt religion for their own selfish agenda."

The ACLU is already challenging government building displays of the Ten Commandments in at least three other states — Kentucky, Alabama and Ohio.

County commissions in Johnson, Greene and Sequatchie in East Tennessee and Shelby in West Tennessee previously have voted to display the Ten Commandments. The Knox County Commission plans to post the Ten Commandments in its downtown government building if the ACLU loses its Kentucky case.

Following a September vote by Hamilton County commissioners, the Ten Commandments were posted in December in the Hamilton County-Chattanooga Courts Building, the Hamilton County Courthouse and the lobby of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court building.

"I believe we are on the right track when that crowd starts suing you," said County Commissioner Curtis Adams. "We've made a pledge that we will not use any public money, and we are going to stick to that."

Adams said he "would have been disappointed" if the ACLU had not sued.

"I don't think they are strong enough to kick a pussy cat in my opinion," he said.

"In this country, politicians down through the years have just sat idle and backed up and backed up. You can't have prayer in school. You can't do this and you can't do that. It's a minority. The majority rules in this country."

The lawsuit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Allan Edgar.

Update

County attorney: Ten Commandments displays aren't religious
Tennessee officials tell federal judge that postings are secular reminders for citizens to obey the law.  04.30.02

Related

Alabama House panel backs Ten Commandments amendment
Proposal would allow religious codes to be displayed on state property, including in schools.  01.27.02

Virginia House passes Ten Commandments measure
Lawmakers amend bill to allow schools to post codes alongside several secular documents, but opponents say legislation still promotes religion.  02.11.02

3 judges order Ten Commandments displays taken down
But another judge in Tennessee county says he'll leave religious codes in courtroom until ordered to remove them.  02.23.02

Teen asks Tennessee county to display Islamic pillars
Bradley County Commission, which recently voted to allow posting of Ten Commandments, has refused to consider request.  04.02.02

Friends, foes of commandments displays claim history is with them
ACLU of Kentucky cites church-state separation in challenges; county officials say religious codes played role in nation's development.  01.02.02

'Ten Commandments judge' says monument doesn't endorse religion
Roy Moore's attorneys say challenges to 5,280-pound display erroneously equate public acknowledgment of God with religious promotion.  01.10.02

Supreme Court refuses to clear up confusion over Ten Commandments display
Justices turn away appeal from Indiana governor who wanted permission to erect 7-foot monument on state Capitol grounds.  02.26.02

State attorney general calls Ten Commandments displays unconstitutional
Opinion comes amid push to have all 95 Tennessee counties adopt resolutions in favor of posting religious codes in government buildings.  04.05.02

Ten Commandments replacing abortion as key Christian issue, scholar says
Christian groups continue nationwide effort to place religious codes in public square.  01.07.00

Push for Ten Commandments displays gains momentum in South
Supporters see effort as way of encouraging morality, but civil libertarians view campaign as affront to nation's fundamental principles.  04.12.02

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