SEATTLE — A Ten Commandments monument can remain on display outside the
police station in Everett, a federal judge says, basing his decision on two
recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
“The display at issue here poses no threat to the religious freedoms of the
citizens of Everett,” U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik wrote in yesterday’s
ruling in Card v. Everett.
In June, the Supreme Court issued seemingly contradictory 5-4 rulings in two
Ten Commandments cases. In McCreary
County v. ACLU, the majority struck down a framed, relatively new
display of the Commandments on the wall of a Kentucky courthouse. In Van
Orden v. Perry, the Court upheld the display of a decades-old Ten
Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas state capitol.
“The average American who is not a constitutional scholar may be mystified by
the two Ten Commandments opinions,” Lasnik wrote. But he went on to explain
that, according to the Supreme Court, the difference is in context: In Kentucky,
the display was intended to promote religion; in Texas, it was to honor the Ten
Commandments as a legal and historical text.
Lasnik said that he visited Everett, about 30 miles north of Seattle, to view
the monument, and had decided that the context of the city’s monument was almost
identical to that of the Texas display. Both were donated decades ago by the
Fraternal Order of Eagles with a stated goal of promoting good behavior among
teens. Both stand near other monuments, and neither generated many
There is little, if anything, to indicate that Everett intended to promote
religion when it accepted the monument in 1959, the judge said. Its placement —
behind shrubs, overshadowed by lighted war memorials — gives it an air of
“disregard or neglect”; if the city was trying to promote religion, it would
have given the monument a more prominent placement, he said.
City officials said they were pleased with Lasnik’s ruling. The city spent
more than $100,000 to defend itself against the lawsuit, which was brought by Everett resident and
self-described agnostic Jesse Card. The lawsuit sought $1 in punitive
“This confirms the important role this monument has had in our community,”
Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said.
Rob Boston, a spokesman for Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for
Church and State, which provided Card’s legal help, said the organization knew
it had little chance of winning, given the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Texas
“Basically what the court said was that if you’ve been violating the
Constitution for a long time, then it’s OK,” Boston said.
Boston said Americans United had not decided whether to appeal.