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Federal Appeals Court to Hear Argument on Ten Commandments in Foundations Display

April 22, 2009

Tomorrow a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will hear oral argument in a case involving a Foundations of American Law and Government display. In ACLU v. Grayson County, Kentucky, the ACLU challenged the Ten Commandments contained in the historical display. Mathew Staver, Dean of Liberty University School of Law and Founder of Liberty Counsel, will present the oral argument on behalf of Grayson County.

The Foundations of American Law and Government display includes the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the Star-Spangled Banner, the Ten Commandments, the National Motto, the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a picture of Lady Justice, with an explanation of the significance of each document. The purpose of the display is educational and is intended to reflect a sampling of documents that played a significant role in the development of the legal and governmental system of the United States.

The Foundations display was placed on a wall on the second floor of the courthouse. Neither the Fiscal Court nor any other Grayson County governmental entity expended any funds or appropriated any monies to have the documents framed or produced. There was no formal ceremony, and no member from the Fiscal Court oversaw or participated in the hanging of the display.

In 2002, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Grayson County, and a federal judge ruled against the display. The display is identical to the displays at issue in the ACLU’s lawsuits against McCreary and Pulaski Counties, which Dean Staver argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.

In 2005, this same Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the same Ten Commandments display in Mercer County, Kentucky, which Liberty Counsel also defended. The Sixth Circuit governs Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan. Notwithstanding this identical and controlling precedent, the federal judge entered a permanent injunction against the Grayson County display.

Commenting on the case, Dean Staver said: “The Ten Commandments is as much at home in a display about the foundation of law as stars and stripes are to the American flag. The Ten Commandments are part of the fabric of our country and helped shape the law. It defies common sense to remove a recognized symbol of law from a court of law. The ACLU might not like our history and might run from it, but the fact remains that the Ten Commandments shaped our laws and may be displayed in a court of law.”

Since 2005, the ACLU has lost every case involving the Ten Commandments at the federal courts of appeals. Two of those involved Liberty Counsel cases, defending the same Foundations of Law and Government display. The third case involved a stand-alone granite monument of the Ten Commandments.

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