Citing Religious Freedom, Appeals Court Bars Government Placement of Ten Commandments Monument in Nebraska Park

Affiliate: ACLU of Nebraska
February 18, 2004 12:00 am

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LINCOLN, NE – Saying that the city of Plattsmouth “”abandoned its duty to religious neutrality and acted with the intent of promoting a particular point of view in religious matters,”” a federal appeals court today ruled that the town’s Ten Commandments monument violates the religious freedom provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

“”This is a major First Amendment victory, and we are pleased that the court has upheld the lower court ruling in our favor,”” said Tim Butz, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nebraska, which brought the challenge to the monument.

Today’s ruling upholds a February 2002 district court decision by Judge Richard Kopf. Following that decision, the city appealed to the Eighth Circuit, which heard oral arguments last year.

“”This decision is a vindication of our position that the monument belongs on private property and not public property,”” Butz said. “”All we have sought from the very beginning of this matter was to have the monument transferred to private land and remove the appearance of government endorsement of its religious content.””

ACLU of Nebraska Cooperating Attorney Sue Ellen Wall, one of the two trial counsels on the case, added: “”It is critical to the well-being of religion that it be protected from entanglement with the state. The last thing I want is the government telling me what to believe in religious matters. We must protect all elements of religious freedom including fighting attempts by government to ordain what is acceptable as religious belief.””

Amy Miller, the ACLU of Nebraska’s Legal Director who argued the case before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, noted that the court found the monument was an attempt by Plattsmouth to steer its citizens in the direction of mainstream Judeo-Christian religion, “”which is exactly what we had contended from the beginning of the case,”” she said. “”The court found that there was no purpose behind the monument other than to advance a set of religious beliefs.””

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