The Richmond Register

State News

July 23, 2009

Ten Commandments removed from Jackson County courthouse

MCKEE, Ky. — The Ten Commandments have been removed from an eastern Kentucky courthouse in the face of a federal lawsuit.

Jackson County Judge-Executive William O. Smith told WYMT-TV that county officials didn’t want to put taxpayers in jeopardy.

“From an economic standpoint and financial standpoint we do not want to jeopardize the taxpayers of our community and make them liable for something that is unfair,” he said. “We just felt this was the best solution to the immediate problem.”

He said the plaques containing individual commandments will be displayed in local businesses.

Eugene Phillips Jr., with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit about three weeks ago calling the displays an improper governmental endorsement of religion.

Phillips told WYMT he is happy with the decision.

Jim Muncy, who hung the plaques in the courthouse 10 years ago, said it was sad to have to take them down Monday.

“All the laws of our state were based on the ten commandments. It’s not that it’s a religious statement, it’s a statement of law and order,” he said.

There have been several court fights over Kentucky counties posting the Ten Commandments in the last decade including one that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court ruled in 2005 that Ten Commandments displays on government property must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some legal scholars said the court did little to clarify the law, since justices allowed a display outside the Texas state Capitol but not inside two Kentucky courthouses.

The justices said Ten Commandments exhibits would be upheld if their main purpose was to honor the nation’s legal, rather than religious, traditions, and if they didn’t promote one religious sect over another.

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