- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

The American Civil Liberties Union, after losing two Ten Commandments rulings in Kentucky this week, is trying to force them out of a Frederick, Md., cemetery.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Baltimore yesterday seeking removal of a Ten Commandments monument from a downtown public park in Frederick. City officials say religious symbols are appropriate because the park was once a cemetery. About 300 people are still buried there.
"No one is trying to make Frederick a Ten Commandments-free zone. But placement of a religious monument on government property sends a message of endorsement of a particular religious faith and a message of exclusion of others," Dwight Sullivan, managing attorney for the ACLU of Maryland, told the Associated Press.
The liberal civil liberties group was not appeased when the Frederick Board of Aldermen acted in the hopes it would halt the ACLU's lawsuit earlier this month. The board changed the name of the parcel from Memorial Park to the Bentz Street Graveyard Memorial in honor of the people buried there. No one has been buried in the cemetery since 1924.
The case in Frederick is one of many around the country in which the ACLU has sought removal of Ten Commandments monuments donated to local governments in the 1950s by chapters of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The ACLU says the five-foot granite marker in Frederick and others of its type violate the First Amendment ban against state-sponsored religion.
In the past 12 months, Ten Commandments monuments have either come down or been covered up on public property in Kentucky and Colorado. But on Thursday, the ACLU's winning record in Kentucky came to a halt.
A federal court in Lexington denied a bid by the ACLU to force two counties in Kentucky to remove public displays in courthouses that feature the Ten Commandments alongside texts from various historical, patriotic and legal documents.
"This is a major victory for Americans who don't buy into the ACLU's extreme misrepresentation of our Constitution," said Francis J. Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a public-interest law firm, based in Virginia Beach. The center represented one of the two Kentucky counties Mercer in the case before the U.S. District Court in Lexington.
In an interview yesterday, David Friedman, the ACLU's general counsel in Kentucky, suggested that it might be too early for his courtroom opponents to be celebrating the ruling by U.S. District Judge Karl Forester. "We've won on this same issue in other courts in Kentucky," Mr. Friedman said.
Judge Forester rejected the ACLU's motion for a preliminary injunction, which would have required the immediate removal of the "Foundations of Law and Government" displays from courthouses in Mercer and Rowan counties.
The Mercer County display, for example, shows the Ten Commandments along with such documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta and the Mayflower Compact.
Judge Forester said he would not rule on the legality of the Mercer and Rowan county displays until the 6th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati decides an appeal of a lower court ruling that ordered the removal of similar displays including the Ten Commandments and excerpts from other historic texts from courthouses in McCreary and Pulaski counties, and schools in Harlan County, all in Kentucky.
Judge Forester held that the ACLU, which frequently takes up cases where it sees violations of constitutional requirements for separation of church and state, had not shown a "likelihood of success on the merits" of these cases, so he did not order the displays to come down.
Mr. Friedman noted that the Forester decision was the first time a judge has ruled against a motion for preliminary injunction in a Ten Commandments case in Kentucky. It is the ACLU's position that posting the Ten Commandments constitutes endorsing religion, in violation of the Constitution.
Mr. Manion said yesterday that he believes that Judge Forester's decision was the first time any judge in the 6th Circuit, which includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan, had ruled against "what the ACLU wanted" in a Ten Commandments case.
Mr. Manion said he believes that Judge Forester's action is significant because the judge said in court that he disagreed with a colleague, U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer B. Coffman. She has ruled that the displays in McCreary and Pulaski courthouses, and in Harlan County schools which are similar to those in courthouses in Mercer and Rowan counties are unconstitutional and must come down.
In the hearing Thursday, Judge Forester also delayed action on the ACLU's request for a preliminary injunction to remove other "Foundation of Law and Justice" exhibits that include the Ten Commandments from a courthouse and hospital owned by Garrard county in Kentucky. So those displays, like the ones in Mercer and Rowan, will also remain up, pending the decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mr. Manion says he believes there is a "good chance" the 6th Circuit appeals court will uphold the constitutionality of the Mercer and Rowan county displays. "After all, the 6th Circuit upheld Ohio's state motto, 'With God, all things are possible,'" he said.
In his ruling, Judge Forester cited the role of the Ten Commandments in the development of the American legal system. He said government officials who display the Ten Commandments for their historical value have a "permissible secular purpose" for doing so.
The judge further held that displaying the Ten Commandments with "other historical documents" makes it clear that the government is displaying them for their "undoubted secular importance and influence."
He went on to say the historic influence of the Ten Commandments is "beyond rational dispute." He conceded that the ACLU might wish this were not the case. "But plaintiffs' wishes cannot change history," Judge Forester said.

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