Originally created 09/14/03

Commandments stay in court



WINDER, Ga. - Barrow County commissioners defied the American Civil Liberties Union's Friday deadline to remove a plaque containing the Ten Commandments from a hall in the Barrow County Courthouse.

Commission Chairman Eddie Elder said a threatened lawsuit does not deter the county's conviction to keep the plaque hanging.

"If it takes going to court, we're ready to go to court," Mr. Elder said.

The ACLU has not been specific about the actions it plans to take, said county public information officer Lane Downs.

ACLU attorney Maggie Garrett would not comment on the specifics of the case, but she called it unfortunate that county officials continued to act against well-established law.

Words of support traveled Winder's streets as many residents continued to back the commissioners' stance.

Vikki Stewart, who works in Winder and lives in Auburn, Ga., said she stands behind the commissioners' decision.

"What's next? Somebody's going to be offended by the Stars and Stripes?" Ms. Stewart said.

"I think it's admirable what they're doing, but I don't think it's going to do any good. It hasn't anywhere else," said Kenny Rock, a business owner in Winder.

Hundreds of people - including Ms. Stewart - rallied on the courthouse lawn Thursday in support of the plaque's retention. Since June, commissioners have been under fire from the ACLU after an unidentified resident complained of the plaque's location in the courthouse.

In a June 16 letter to the county, Ms. Garrett said court precedents prohibited the commandments from being displayed in public buildings. The letter did not directly threaten a lawsuit.

Mr. Elder has refused to identify the person who hung the plaque, but he and the board of commissioners have made their support of the plaque public.

The board voted unanimously June 30 to keep the Ten Commandments posted. Two hundred residents voiced their support for the plaque at that hearing.

The plaque's presence does not violate a separation between church and state, but reinforces the underlying Christian principals at the core of American government, Mr. Elder said.

"I think it should be up in every courtroom," he said of the Ten Commandments. "I don't think that it will be terrorism that takes us down, it will be our lack of belief in God."

What's Next: The Barrow County Commission has vowed to fight any legal action taken by the American Civil Liberties Union over a plaque of the Ten Commandments in the county courthouse. The ACLU has threatened to sue the county.