Originally created 08/16/98

Council hopes to end Commandments suit



CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Charleston County Council members want to end the lawsuit filed against the county after the Ten Commandments were displayed outside their chambers.

But they don't want to pay up to $30,000 in legal fees for the two groups that sued.

Councilman Charles Wallace said Friday he didn't think the council should have decided in May 1997 to post the Ten Commandments.

"So I believe the sooner we're able to settle it, the better off everyone is," Mr. Wallace said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which brought the suit, said any settlement would have to include legal costs.

Americans United spokesman Joseph Conn said the settlement talk is encouraging, but any delay means higher legal bills.

"The attorneys' clocks are still ticking," he said.

Three residents sued Charleston County on behalf of the two groups after Councilman Tim Scott hung the Ten Commandments.

Mr. Scott said the display was unanimously approved by members and would remind council members and speakers the moral absolutes they should follow.

Last August, Circuit Judge R. Markley Dennis Jr. ruled the display unconstitutional and ordered a trial.

Americans United said this week it has filed to make Judge Dennis' order permanent. Mr. Scott believes the Ten Commandments will return to the building before the end of the year.

"I've always said and remain in this position: Whatever it costs in the pursuit of this goal (of displaying the Commandments) is worth it," Mr. Scott said.