Federal Appeals Court Rejects KY's Ten Commandments Monument as Government-Endorsed Religion
CINCINNATI - A government plan to erect a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of Kentucky's state capitol ""impermissibly endorses religion,"" a federal appeals court ruled today in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky on behalf of a diverse coalition of religious leaders and citizens.
""Today the court has defended the religious freedom of everyone in Kentucky,"" said David A. Friedman, General Counsel for the ACLU of Kentucky.
The 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirms an earlier federal court decision. The court also found that state legislation requiring the monument to be erected is unconstitutional.
The 2000 state Senate resolution required state officials to erect a six-by-four-foot monument near the Floral Clock, a prominent tourist attraction on the state capitol grounds. The ACLU of Kentucky testified several times during the 2000 legislative session about its First Amendment concerns with the plan, but the measure passed overwhelmingly and was signed by Governor Paul Patton.
Through the years, courts have determined that in order for a government action to be constitutional, it must have a secular purpose and not endorse religion. A violation of either principle means the action violates the First Amendment. In the two rulings pertaining to the Kentucky law, courts have said the legislation violates both principles.
The ACLU of Kentucky's clients in the lawsuit included Rabbi Jonathan Adland, a Jewish rabbi at Temple Adath Israel in Lexington; Reverend Johanna Bos, a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA in Louisville; Reverend James Jerrell Greenlee, a Louisville minister in the Southern Baptist and American Baptist denominations; and Reverend Gilbert Schroerlucke of Louisville, a retired United Methodist minister.
In addition to Friedman, Louisville attorneys Everett Hoffman and C. Laurie Griffith assisted in the litigation.