LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has permanently barred a Kentucky county from using the Ten Commandments as part of a “Foundations of American Law and Government” display.
Ruling late last month in ACLU of Kentucky v. Grayson County, U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley said the Grayson County display had the “effect of endorsing religion.” McKinley’s decision upholds a preliminary injunction issued in 2002 that resulted in county officials taking down the Ten Commandments, but leaving the frame on display.
No public money was used to set up the display in the county courthouse in Leitchfield, about 75 miles southwest of Louisville.
The Rev. Chester Shartzer put up the display, without a public ceremony or public prayer. Two Grayson County residents and the American Civil Liberties Union sued in 2001.
The display originally included the full text of the Mayflower Compact, the full text of the Declaration of Independence, the Ten Commandments, the full text of the Magna Carta, the Star Spangled Banner, the National Motto together with the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, the Bill of Rights and a picture of Lady Justice together with an explanation of the significance of each of the documents.
McKinley found that the intent of the display was religious, not educational, in part because it came after the county failed to put up only a Ten Commandments display and Grayson County Fiscal Court members discussed what to put with the Ten Commandments to avoid objections from the ACLU.
Mat Staver, who heads the conservative Christian legal group Liberty Counsel and represented Grayson County in the case, said McKinley’s decision would either be appealed or a modified display would be put up. Staver said legally, the county is on sound ground because appeals courts, including one that oversees Kentucky, have upheld “the exact same display.”