Thursday, February 3, 2011

Legal Dispute Over The Ten Commandments

Ohio judge cannot display 10 Commandments
Lisa Cornwell, Associated Press

CINCINNATI – An Ohio judge violated the U.S. Constitution by displaying a poster containing the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal district court's ruling that Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese violated the constitutional separation between church and state by displaying the poster.

DeWeese's attorney, Francis Manion, said he and his client disagree with the ruling and are considering their options. They could ask the full appeals court for a hearing or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The judge hung the poster in his courtroom in Mansfield, north of Columbus, in 2006 after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand lower-court rulings that another Ten Commandment poster he hung in 2000 violated separation between church and state. The latest poster titled "Philosophies of Law in Conflict" shows the Ten Commandments in a column listed as "moral absolutes" and secular humanist principles in another column listed as "moral relatives."

DeWeese attached a commentary to the poster that said he sees a conflict of legal philosophies in the United States — between moral absolutism and moral relativism — and that he believes legal philosophy must be based on fixed moral standards. At the bottom of the poster frame, readers are invited to obtain a pamphlet further explaining DeWeese's philosophy.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation filed suit against DeWeese, and the district court agreed with the ACLU that the display endorsed religious views and was unconstitutional.

The ACLU also sued in the case of the first poster.

Attorneys for DeWeese argued before the appeals court that the latest display was different from the first one, when DeWeese hung a poster of the Bill of Rights next to a poster of the Ten Commandments.

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