Law Group Asks Supreme Court to Hear Ohio Ten Commandments Case

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - A legal group specializing in constitutional law Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to take an Ohio case where a poster of the Ten Commandments displayed inside a state judge's courtroom was declared unconstitutional.

The case is the second case involving the public display of the Ten Commandments that the American Center for Law and Justice has asked the court to consider this term. The ACLJ represents Judge James DeWeese of the Richland County Common Pleas Court in Mansfield, Ohio.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued DeWeese in 2001 after he displayed two framed posters in his courtroom - the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights. In July 2004, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit voted 2-to-1 upholding a lower court decision declaring the poster unconstitutional.

"This country has a rich history of highlighting documents that serve as the foundation of our legal system -- and that includes the Ten Commandments," said Francis J. Manion, senior counsel of the ACLJ, which represents DeWeese.

"The display in Judge DeWeese's courtroom serves an educational and informational purpose and we're hopeful that the high court in its consideration of this issue will conclude that displays like Judge DeWeese's are not only proper, but constitutional as well," Manion said.

In ACLJ's petition asking the Supreme Court to take the case, the group points out that the Supreme Court "has displayed no constitutional squeamishness about conducting its business since the 1930's in a building which contains at least three depictions of Moses and the Decalogue as a source of law."

Furthermore, the brief notes, other courts and public bodies have not shied away from displaying the Commandments as a source of law - including a federal courthouse in Ohio where a federal judge declared Judge DeWeese's poster unconstitutional - a courthouse that contains a large painting of the Commandments flanked by two angels.

In addition, the ACLJ notes that on at least seven occasions, members of the Supreme Court have specifically recognized that the Ten Commandments are a source of law, pointing to what the court has repeatedly called the "unbroken history of official acknowledgement by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life" for more than 200 years."

The petition also includes comments made by Judge Alice M. Batchelder - the 6th circuit judge who dissented in the DeWeese case -- who concluded that Judge DeWeese's poster "signal[s] respect not for great proselytizers but for great law givers."

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