Friday, July 14, 2000

State holds off on monument

Judge to rule in dispute over Commandments

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — State officials agreed Thursday to hold off on erecting a monument to the Ten Commandments ordered by the General Assembly until a federal judge rules on its constitutionality.

        U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood will hold a hearing July 25 to rule on a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky that claims the monument would cross the boundary of government endorsement of religion, which is forbidden by the Constitution.

        “This is not about the Ten Commandments; this is about government,” said ACLU lawyer David Friedman, who sued on behalf of three plaintiffs who are reli gious leaders.

        “They object to the notion of there being a state-sponsored religious display,” Friedman said.

        The 2000 legislature ordered the Finance Cabinet, which oversees all state grounds, to place a marble monument that contains a version of the Ten Commandments near the floral clock, a tourist attraction on the grounds of the Capitol complex.

        The monument had been on display in a corner of the complex grounds from about 1971 to about 1988, when it was removed for construction of a heating and ventilating building. The monument, donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, has been in storage since then.

        Barbara Jones, a lawyer for the state, said it would be premature to put the monument up immediately.

        “We recognize that it's a legitimate issue that's going to be litigated,” Ms. Jones said.


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