FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LOUISVILLE, KY--Displaying the Ten Commandments in schools and courthouses has the overwhelming effect of government endorsing religion, according to legal papers filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky in a challenge to postings of the Judeo-Christian text in the Garrard, Grayson, Mercer, and Rowan county courthouses.
""These cases are about government, not the legitimacy of the Ten Commandments,"" said David Friedman, General Counsel for the ACLU of Kentucky. ""While government may certainly urge citizens not to kill or steal, it exceeds its proper and limited role when it espouses religious beliefs - whatever those beliefs -- such as believing in God, observing the Sabbath, and not worshipping idols. The U.S. Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion keeps religion free and allows government to represent us all.""
The ACLU of Kentucky filed the lawsuits on behalf of itself and citizens in each of the four counties. The lawsuits are pending in federal court in Ashland, Lexington, and Owensboro. The lawsuits seek court orders prohibiting the postings and do not seek damages.
As a result of ACLU of Kentucky lawsuits filed in November 1999, a U.S. District Judge has twice ordered government-endorsed Ten Commandments displays removed from the Harlan County schools and McCreary and Pulaski County courthouses. The rulings have consistently held that these displays have the unconstitutional purpose and effect of government endorsement of religion.
In May 2000, in a similar case brought by the ACLU of Kentucky, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the Commonwealth of Kentucky's plan to erect a Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol grounds violates the First Amendment.
The government-endorsed Ten Commandments postings in the Garrard, Grayson, Mercer, and Rowan county courthouses are similar to those ordered removed last year.
""At a time when many citizens of this wonderfully diverse nation seek solace in spiritual comforts,"" Freidman said, ""they should know their government does not endorse any one form of religion but endeavors to accommodate a plurality of ideas and beliefs.""
The ACLU of Kentucky cooperating attorneys in the lawsuits are Friedman, Laurie Griffith, and Everett Hoffman.