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ACLU ‘revising’ U.S. history in Ten Commandments case, lawyer says

WASHINGTON (BP)–A conservative legal group is defending, in federal court, the rights of three Kentucky counties to display the Ten Commandments in historical displays at two courthouses and a school district.

The Liberty Counsel has filed a brief with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Its opponent in the case is the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that a U.S. district court judge in Kentucky was correct in ruling the displays unconstitutional.

“[The] ruling is quite clear,” David A. Friedman, general counsel for the ACLU of Kentucky, said. “Our Constitution’s ban on government establishment of religion is good for both government and religion. It keeps religion free, and it allows government to represent us all.”

Erik Stanley, litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel, meanwhile, told CNSNews.com Nov. 5 the original suit was nothing more than an attempt by the ACLU to revise the history of founding of the United States.

“I think it is really historical revisionism. Like it or not, religion played an important role in the founding of our country,” he said.

The ACLU sued Pulaski, McCreary and Harlan counties in Kentucky over their choice to display the Ten Commandments in historical displays at two courthouses and a school.

“They were posting the Ten Commandments along with several other historical documents because they believed, and there is historical evidence to back it up, that the Ten Commandments were one of the documents that played a significant role in the foundation of our system of law and government,” Stanley said.

The Liberty Counsel believes the Ten Commandments can be displayed legally because of their historical importance. “The incorporation of the Ten Commandments in law and policy pre-dates the Constitution,” the brief reads.

Stanley said the displays clearly pass the “Lemon test,” a measurement of whether the so-called Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits government from establishing or limiting the free expression of religion, has been violated. The Lemon test was established with the 1971 Supreme Court decision, Lemon v. Kurtzman.

Stanley said the Lemon test is a three-part test that asks whether the governmental practice in question has a secular purpose, whether it has the primary effect of endorsing religion and whether it results in excessive entanglement of the government with religion.

The Kentucky case does not violate the Establishment Clause, Stanley said, because, “Someone looking at the display would view this as nothing other than a historical representation of some of the documents that played an important role.”

The ACLU disagrees. In a press release, it cites the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer B. Coffman that the Ten Commandments “have the overwhelming effect of endorsing religion,” noting that the First Amendment protects “the religious diversity that is our national heritage.”

Stanley, however, believes the ruling denies the nation’s heritage.

“The ACLU has specifically argued in court that there is no connection between the Ten Commandments and our system of law and government. I don’t understand why they are making that argument because I don’t believe that, historically, that statement can be backed up. I think a true reading of history will show that the Ten Commandments did play a significant role,” Stanley said.

The Liberty Counsel brief cites laws from the colonies of Virginia, Connecticut and others from the 17th century that show an intrinsic connection between colonial law and each of the Ten Commandments.

Stanley said he believes it is the intent of the ACLU to rid the country of the historical connection between religion, law and government.

“If the court bought into [the ACLU’s] arguments, effectively what that would require them to do is take a chisel” to the depiction of Moses in the Supreme Court chamber, he said.

“Religion still plays an important role in our national life, and it can’t violate the Establishment Clause for government to acknowledge an objective view of history. To require government not to present an objective view of history would rewrite history,” Stanley said.
Pyeatt is a staff writer with www.CNSnews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Matt Pyeatt