- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

A federal judge has ruled that the city of Elkhart, Ind., can keep a monument featuring the Ten Commandments on the City Hall lawn, now that the city has agreed to add monuments commemorating some nonreligious documents to the display.
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp comes in a legal battle that has raged for nearly four years and has gone as high as the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court last year refused to hear the case, despite objections by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The three justices, speaking before the city offered to add other monuments, said they believed the monument was constitutional.
In approving the city's proposal, Judge Sharp on Wednesday held that the new display "represents a proper balance concerning all of the constitutional values that are involved in the case, and complies with the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, as currently interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States."
"We are pleased that the court has concluded that Elkhart's proposed display passes constitutional muster," said Francis J. Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented the city of Elkhart.
"The Ten Commandments are clearly an important foundation of our legal system, and nothing in our Constitution prohibits government from acknowledging that fact," Mr. Manion added.
But the judge's ruling didn't not mean even a temporary halt to the legal fight, which had raged since May 1998, when the Indiana Civil Liberties Union filed a motion on behalf of two persons who objected to the Ten Commandments statue and sought to have it removed as an unconstitutional government establishment of religion.
Kenneth Falk, legal director for the ICLU, yesterday filed a motion asking Judge Sharp to reconsider his opinion. If he doesn't, Mr. Falk said, he will file an appeal with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The 7th Circuit has already found the Ten Commandments monument unconstitutional. The question is whether placing it with monuments that feature excerpts from American legal documents minimizes" the constitutional issues, Mr. Falk said yesterday.
"It's important for us to prevail … against this snake," Elkhart Mayor Dave Miller said yesterday about the civil liberties group. "We've taken on that snake that's crawling around, looking for religious markers to devour.
"The ACLU and its tyrannical assault on religious freedom need to be stopped," said the mayor, who described himself in a phone interview yesterday as "Republican, conservative and Christian."
In order to keep the 6-foot-tall granite Ten Commandments statue on the government land, where it has stood for 44 years, the city of Elkhart has agreed to erect four monuments of identical size and appearance alongside it.
The city's proposal, approved by Judge Sharp, calls for the other monuments to feature excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta.
Together, the five monuments will constitute a display called the "Freedom Walk," honoring documents that are the cornerstone of law and democracy, Mr. Miller said.


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