Originally created 09/24/05

Car dealer buys Commandments display for $7,600

ATHENS, Ga. - Brad Akins waited until after 10:15 p.m. Wednesday before he logged onto eBay - only an hour before the end of the 10-day auction to sell a well-known Ten Commandments display.

By that point, bidding for the controversial hanging that once graced the breezeway of the Barrow County Courthouse had reached $6,400. He decided to make a move.

Less than an hour later, Mr. Akins was the proud owner of the display that sparked a two-year legal battle over the legality of displaying the Ten Commandments in a county courthouse. His winning bid: $7,600.

"I don't know what I would bid to, I really don't know," Mr. Akins said Thursday. "I'm glad I didn't have to find out."

Mr. Akins, owner of Akins Ford Dodge Jeep Chrysler Plymouth in Winder, won the framed copy of the Ten Commandments that private group Ten Commandments-Georgia put on the Internet auction site eBay hoping to raise money to pay for legal fees Barrow County incurred fighting an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over the display.

"We're excited about it," said the group's executive director ,Michael Griffin. "They're going to stay in Barrow County.."

During the 10 days of bidding, which ended just after 11 p.m. Wednesday, 14 people put up a total of 65 bids, according to Ten Commandments-Georgia. In all, more than half of the people who bid on the display offered more than $5,000 for it, the group said.

In September 2003, an anonymous resident, identified as John Doe in court records and backed by the ACLU, filed a federal lawsuit over the display that hung in a breezeway of the courthouse in Winder.

In July, the county agreed to remove the display and settle the lawsuit. In addition, the county must pay $150,001 to John Doe for legal fees and damages.

In all, the group has raised more than $210,000 of the more than $400,000 Barrow County has spent either defending the lawsuit or as a part of the settlement. Barrow County has paid all but about $41,000 of its legal bills, not including what it had to pay to John Doe.

Mr. Akins said he plans to display the Ten Commandments at his dealership or at his home.


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