LINCOLN, Neb. (BP)–The Nebraska attorney general is siding with a small city that’s being sued over a public monument to the Ten Commandments.
Attorney General Don Stenberg is concerned that a ruling against the city of Plattsmouth could have a negative impact at the state capitol in Lincoln, where various Biblical figures are carved into the stone of the building, according to CNSNews.com.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit against Plattsmouth, a city of some 7,000 people, arguing that the monument erected in a city park in 1965 is “religious in nature” and violates the establishment clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment.
Stenberg plans to take Plattsmouth’s side in the federal lawsuit “because he felt that a wrong ruling could endanger religious markings on the Nebraska state capitol,” said Stenberg spokeswoman Christine Vanderford, in an interview with CNSNews.com
“I am very concerned that the lawsuit potentially threatens the architectural integrity of the Nebraska state capitol building,” said Stenberg in a statement.
Religious figures carved into the capitol building include Moses bringing the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai; a biblical prophetess judging Israel; and King Solomon passing judgment on two women arguing over a baby, according to Stenberg.
Stenberg fears the removal of the Ten Commandments monument in Plattsmouth “would also likely require the removal of these similar religious depictions from the walls and halls of the state capitol.”
But the ACLU dismissed Stenberg’s fears as unfounded.
“The ACLU has never discussed doing anything about the artwork at the state capitol and it’s not something that we have ever discussed,” said Tim Butz, executive director of the Nebraska chapter of the ACLU. “It’s like comparing apples to oranges.”
According to Butz, the depiction of Moses carrying the Ten Commandments at the state capitol does not have an explicitly religious character. “It takes on the aura of a museum, and we would never consider it religious simply because it [the building] contains masterpieces of a religious nature,” Butz said.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims recognize Moses as the man who led the Jews out of their captivity at the hands of the ancient Egyptians. But the Plattsmouth monument, in the eyes of the ACLU, endorses the Judeo-Christian concept of God, and that’s unconstitutional, according to the civil liberties group.
The ACLU’s Butz warned that the state’s involvement in the Plattsmouth case could have unforeseen consequences.
“If the court buys the argument that the state has an interest because of these pieces of art in the state capitol, and then buys the ACLU’s argument that all of this is religious in nature, it will create a problem where none existed previously,” he said.
The American Center for Law and Justice, the legal group defending Plattsmouth’s monument, said it would welcome the attorney general’s involvement in the case.
“This is the first case we are aware of in which a state attorney general has moved to intervene in a case defending the public display of the Ten Commandments,” said Frank Manion, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Manion said Stenberg’s attempt to join the Plattsmouth case “underscores our defense of the display; that the Ten Commandments have played a vital role in the development of western law and are a part of our nation’s culture and heritage.”
The court has not yet decided whether it will permit the Nebraska attorney general’s office to join the lawsuit on behalf of Plattsmouth.
Rossomando is a staff writer with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.