Commandments not for municipal display
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. U.S. District Judge Allan Edgar yesterday ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments at two municipal buildings, ruling the display violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
He ordered the engraved plaques, shaped like a stone tablet, be removed from the Hamilton County Courthouse and City Courts Building.
However, he said a display can remain at the county's Juvenile Court Building because the plaintiffs, the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, had no right to challenge the posting there, where none of the plaintiffs do business and so have not "endured unwelcome contact" with that display.
The ACLU and several area residents sued, claiming the displays violate religious freedom and are "divisive to religious diversity." The commandments were posted after a vote by county commissioners, whose chairman testified that the idea of posting them occurred to him a few days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
More than half of Tennessee's 95 counties have approved similar Ten Commandments displays, and more than 30 have posted the biblical laws.