Fla. County Appeals Ten Commandments Case

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Officials in Dixie County, Florida are appealing to keep a Ten Commandments monument in front of their local courthouse building in Cross City.

U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul ruled on July 15 in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the county to remove the monument.

The monument was bought by a local businessman, who pays for its maintenance as well.

County residents say support for the monument is unanimous.

"We have not had one negative comment from the community," said county manager Mike Cassidy, a 48-year-old, fourth-generation Floridian who grew up in Cross City. "No one in this county has come forward and said, `this should be removed.' It has been totally unanimous."'

The six-ton, $20,000 monument still sits on the courthouse steps. Beneath the commandments, the monument reads in large capital letters, "LOVE GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS."

"There will be people standing around it to protect it when they come to remove it," said Donald Eady, a 38-year-old mobile mechanic. "The people here enjoy it. We should have that freedom, but they're taking our freedom away daily."

The Florida ACLU argued that an official government display of a religious monument violates a clause in the First Amendment that prohibits the government from promoting religious messages. The county argued that a private citizen owns the monument.

"The actual ownership of the monument, the location and permanent nature of the display make it clear to all reasonable observers that Dixie County chooses to be associated with the message being conveyed," Paul said in his ruling.

Attorneys for Dixie County filed notice July 26 at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to defend the county's policy allowing private displays of law and history. The appeal is pending.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2005 that displaying the Ten Commandments could be constitutional if its main purpose is to honor the nation's legal traditions, rather than religious traditions. Since then, lower courts have seen numerous cases on Ten Commandments display across the country.

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