April 19, 2006
Federal Judge says Ten Commandments shall stay at Courthouse
By Mark Reiter / The Toledo Blade
A federal judge in Toledo ruled Tuesday that a decades-old granite monument of the Ten Commandments can remain standing on the lawn of the Lucas County Courthouse.
The decision of U.S. District Judge James Carr closely follows the ruling last year of the U.S. Supreme Court that addressed the issue for the display of biblical messages on public property.
In ruling on a 2002 lawsuit, Judge Carr said the motives in placing the stone monument outside the county courthouse were secular and not intended to deliver a message endorsing a particular religion.
The granite marker has stood at Erie and Adams streets since 1957 when it was given to the county by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles as part of a national effort to combat juvenile delinquency.
“I am persuaded that an objective observer could not conclude that the monument, despite the sectarian antecedents of its text, has the effect of endorsing religion in general or the specific tenets of any particular sectarian assembly,” Judge Carr wrote.
The ruling follows the groundwork from June’s Supreme Court rulings on displays of biblical law on public land in Kentucky and Texas.
The high court voted 5-4 to allow a Ten Commandments marker on the grounds of the Texas Capitol. The monument also was donated by the Eagles. But plaques with the biblical text at two Kentucky courthouses were ruled unconstitutional because the court felt the displays were blatantly religious.
The lawsuit in the Lucas County case was filed in 2002 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. However, Judge Carr suspended arguments in the case pending the outcome of the Supreme Court decisions.
Jeffrey Gamso, a Toledo lawyer and legal director for the ACLU in Ohio, said he believed Judge Carr incorrectly applied the high court rulings on the issue. “We think he got it wrong. …We will study the opinion and make a decision on how to proceed,” he said.
The ACLU lawsuit argued that the stone monument is prominently displayed on the courthouse grounds and should be removed because it endorses a certain religion.
Chuck Boss, one of the plaintiffs, said he couldn’t comment without reading the opinion. An ACLU member, Mr. Boss, a lawyer, testified that he was offended by the marker.
Andrew Ranazzi, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor who defended the county in the lawsuit, said, “This is a pretty good win for the county given that there was the issue of having the Ten Commandments removed from the courthouse.”
In his decision, Judge Carr said newspaper reports indicated public officials, such as judges, mayor, and a county commissioner, attended the monument’s dedication, and clergy or other representatives of religious groups were not present for the ceremony.
The Rev. Tony Scott, pastor of the Cathedral of Praise, said he didn’t see eye-to-eye with the court’s reasoning in allowing the marker to stay, but he was nonetheless pleased.
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