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AU Wins Battle Over Ten Commandments In South Carolina.

The Charleston, S.C., County Council violated the First Amendment by erecting a display of the Ten Commandments on government property, a state judge ruled in March.

Acting in a case brought by Americans United and the American Civil Liberties Union, Judge R. Markley Dennis Jr. said the Constitution "bans governments from appearing to take a position on questions of religious belief.... [T]his court has little choice but to find that the resolution at issue, and the subsequent display of the Ten Commandments, were in violation of the [separation of church and state] because they endorsed religion in general and Judeo-Christianity in particular."

Americans United filed suit on behalf of three local residents after Councilman Tim Scott erected the plaque outside council offices in May of 1997. (One of the plaintiffs was Sharon Robles, head of Americans United's South Carolina Chapter.) Dennis had earlier ruled on a motion for summary judgment that the plaque must come down.

The March decision in Young v. County of Charleston will probably end the controversy. Although Scott said he wants the county to pursue an appeal, few of his fellow members on the nine-member council are interested in that option.

In other news about Ten Commandments displays:

* Georgia: Officials in Lumpkin County, Ga., agreed to remove a Ten Commandments display from the local courthouse when Americans United and the Georgia ACLU threatened to take legal action. After receiving a letter from AU Litigation Counsel Ayesha Khan, County Attorney William M. Brownell Jr. wrote, "Upon careful consideration of this issue, the Commissioner has agreed to take down the Ten Commandments display from the Lumpkin County Courthouse."

The plaque was posted at the request of the Rev. Joel Crotzer of Holy Evangel Ministries. "The Lord founded this nation," he told The Dahlonega Nugget, the local paper. "All other laws are secondary to God's laws. There is no separation of church and state."

However, Walter Bell, president of the Georgia Americans United chapter, told the news media, "The plaque needed to be removed. It violated both the First Amendment and Georgia's constitution. The organization that put it up was clearly trying to force governmental approval of its religious dogma."

* Arkansas: The House of Representatives has approved a measure that says the Ten Commandments may be displayed at government facilities, including public schools. The bill passed on a 51-18 vote in March. It has stalled, however, in the Senate Education Committee.
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Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1U5SC
Date:Apr 1, 1999
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