ACLU sues Tennessee county over commandments displays
By The Associated Press
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.
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