FRANKFORT, Ky. — A civic group will send a Ten Commandments monument back to
Frankfort only if political leaders give assurances that it will be displayed
publicly, as a new law allows.
"We gave it to them once, and they put it in storage," said Jim West, a
member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Hopkinsville. "It's too beautiful a
monument to be sitting in storage."
Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a bill into law last month that allows the
6-foot-tall granite monument to be returned to the Capitol grounds.
The Ten Commandments monument was part of an ever-growing list of religious
issues that Fletcher and other political leaders have dealt with this year.
The latest issue, which popped up April 10, deals with whether the state's
public schools should drop the traditional B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno
Domini, Latin for "in the year of the Lord") when referring to historical
dates. (Editor's note: On June 14 the state school board scrapped its plan to switch to alternative date designations.)
Both issues are considered catalysts that would motivate Kentucky's
conservative Christians to vote in this year's elections.
Fletcher said the commandments monument would be accompanied by a historical
"The Ten Commandments do represent a sacred religious text," Fletcher said.
"We all acknowledge that. But we cannot deny the commandments' significant
impact on culture, history and the laws of Kentucky, as well as the laws of the
The Eagles donated the Ten Commandments monument to the state in 1971. It was
removed from the Capitol grounds and placed in storage in the mid-1980s during a
construction project. When political leaders tried to display it again in 2000,
the American Civil Liberties Union went to court, claiming the monument was an
unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The ACLU won the case.
After that, the state gave the monument back to the Eagles. It now has a
prominent position at the organization's lodge in Hopkinsville, fully visible
alongside Fort Campbell Boulevard, the main road leading to one of Army's most
storied military installations.
Lawmakers passed a bill calling for the return of the monument. The same bill
granted permission to local governments to post displays of the commandments in
courthouses and other public buildings.
Kentucky has been at the center of legal fights in recent years on the
posting of the commandments. In one case, McCreary
County v. ACLU, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled displays inside courthouses
in McCreary and Pulaski counties were unconstitutional. In another, Mercer County v.
ACLU, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a similar display in
the Mercer County Courthouse is constitutional because it included other
West said the Eagles are not opposed to returning the monument to Frankfort,
if it is given a spot on the Capitol grounds as the new law directs.
"We're open for discussion on it," he said. "We've had discussions with some
people, but nobody with any real authority."
Fletcher, surrounded by lawmakers at a ceremonial signing of the Ten
Commandments bill on April 10, said he opposed dropping the B.C. and A.D. dating
system in what one conservative Christian group says is an effort by the state
school board to be politically correct.
"This is an attempt to religiously sterilize the teaching of history in our
schools," said Martin Cothran, a policy analyst for the Family Foundation in Lexington.
Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said a
draft of a revamped, 600-page guidebook for teachers does recommend the change.
However, a final version that may be considered by the state board would propose
using all four abbreviations.
"To me, this is a tempest in a teapot," Gross said. "There's no move here to
Gross said C.E. and B.C.E. were coming into widespread use, and Kentucky
students needed to be exposed to the terms in case they encounter them on
college placement tests.
"This is not anything other than trying to provide the most complete
educational information to our students in public schools," she said.