Thursday, June 13, 2002

Judge shall not show poster

10 Commandments disallowed in court

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — A federal judge has ruled that a poster showing the Ten Commandments should not be displayed in a county courtroom.

        U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley ruled Tuesday that Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese's purpose for posting the commandments is “generally laudable.”

        But she decided that his intention is “constitutionally deficient, because the debate he seeks to foster is inherently religious in character.”

        Judge DeWeese said Wednesday that he had not seen the ruling, but he insisted that he did nothing wrong.

        “I am confident of the legality and correctness of the challenged conduct and welcome the opportunity to take the case before a higher tribunal,” said Judge DeWeese, whose courtroom is in Mansfield, between Cleveland and Columbus.

        “We're disappointed with the decision,” said Gene Kapp, spokesman for American Center for Law and Justice, which represented Judge DeWeese. “But we're already working on our appeal. We are working on a number of Ten Commandment cases across the country.”

        Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sued Judge DeWeese and the county commissioners. Bernard Davis, an ACLU member in Mansfield, objected to the poster and said the display made him feel as though the judge forced religion on him.

        But attorneys for Richland County said the Ten Commandments are more than a religious text, that they also provide a significant influence on the modern legal system.

        Mark Landes, a lawyer representing the Richland County commissioners, said Mr. O'Malley has been asked to drop the county commissioners as a defendant. The commissioners had no role in the display, he said.

        “The important point is it just goes to show how much our freedoms are under attack by the judicial system in America, especially the federal bench,” said Dan Hardwick, a Richland County commissioner.

        Judge DeWeese has said he has used the display to teach groups that tour his courtroom about the development of the legal system.


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