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Still standing: Court declares Oklahoma Ten Commandments display constitutional

Monument defended by ADF attorneys withstands legal challenge by ACLU

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — A federal court today agreed with the arguments of ADF attorneys and determined that a Ten Commandments monument erected with private funds on a county courthouse lawn is constitutional, thwarting a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Even the ACLU would have to admit that abstaining from lying, cheating, and stealing are ideals that all Americans should value,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot.  “The morals set forth in the Ten Commandments have been a vital part of American values throughout history.  The government’s acknowledgment of this historical fact does not create a constitutional crisis.”

The ACLU had originally submitted a motion to the court requesting that its name be held in confidentiality so that the public and any jury would not know that it was behind the suit.  The request became moot when the case went to trial without a jury.

Mike Bush, a resident of Haskell County, raised $2,000 in private funds to pay for the monument, which was approved by county officials for display.  The county has allowed citizens to erect monuments in the area for many years.  The courthouse lawn area includes three memorials to veterans of World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War; an Unmarked Graves monument; a Choctaw Indian Tribe Monument; two benches commemorating the high school graduating classes of 1954 and 1955; and 150 personalized message bricks on the sidewalk leading to the courthouse’s front steps.

“Haskell County officials acted within the law when they allowed the display of this Ten Commandments monument,” said Theriot.  “The monument is historically important and does not represent the furtherance of any religion by the county.  The court wisely denied the ACLU’s attempt to erase the Ten Commandments out of American history.”

Judge Ronald White of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma wrote in the opinion issued today, “The Monument does not violate the Establishment Clause and may remain on the courthouse lawn, peacefully and passively resting among the other monuments under the stars.”  

ADF-funded victories involving Ten Commandments monuments include ACLU of Nebraska v. City of Plattsmouth and Van Orden v. Perry.

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

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Kevin Theriot
Kevin Theriot
Senior Counsel
Kevin Theriot serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom