ACLU of Kentucky Files Suit to Stop Placement of Ten Commandments Monument on Capitol Grounds

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
July 10, 2000 12:00 am

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ACLU of Kentucky
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FRANKFORT, KY–Seeking to halt an unconstitutional government plan to place a monument of the Ten Commandments on state property here, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four members of the clergy from diverse religious communities.

“The placement of the Ten Commandments monument at a central location on the Capitol grounds is no accident,” said Kathleen Flynn, one of the volunteer ACLU lawyers handling the case. “The legislature chose to place religious text next to the Floral Clock as a way of endorsing that text.”

In legal papers filed before the U.S. District Court here, the ACLU is asking the court to declare the display unconstitutional and issue an order preventing the monument from being placed on State Capitol grounds. State legislation implementing the plan is due to go into effect on July 15.

Placing the monument on state property is a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids government from endorsing or favoring religion, the ACLU said.

“This legislation must be viewed in context,” added David Friedman, the ACLU of Kentucky’s general counsel. “It was enacted after the ACLU of Kentucky sued local governments to prevent them from placing the Ten Commandments on courthouse and school walls. The legislature clearly was taking sides in that debate, choosing the endorsement of religious texts over American principles forbidding government from doing so.”

Senate Joint Resolution 57, which passed during the 2000 Kentucky General Assembly and goes into effect on July 15, ordered that the monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments be placed permanently on the Capitol grounds.

The three ACLU volunteer lawyers working on the case, Flynn, Friedman and Laurie Griffith, also are handling the lawsuits against officials in McCreary, Pulaski, and Harlan counties. Those lawsuits have resulted in preliminary orders requiring the removal of the Ten Commandments displays from government buildings in those counties.

Besides the ACLU of Kentucky and its Executive Director, Jeff Vessels, plaintiffs in the lawsuit are four clergy from diverse religious communities who participate in political advocacy in Frankfort:

* Rabbi Jonathan Adland, a Jewish rabbi at Temple Adath Israel in Lexington;
* Reverend Johanna Bos, a minister in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A;
* Reverend James Jerrell Greenlee, a minister in the Southern Baptist and American Baptist denominations; and
* Reverend Gilbert Schroerlucke, a retired minister in the United Methodist denomination.

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