(CNSNews.com) - A federal district court in Maryland ruled Tuesday that a Ten Commandments display in a park in Frederick is constitutional.
The display, owned by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which ended up dropping its lawsuit, but Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a suit in June 2003 challenging the validity of the sale of the monument and the land on which it stood from the city to the FOE.
"As there is no evidence of religious purpose for Frederick's display, and no indication that its secular purpose was insincere, the Court finds that Frederick had a secular purpose in displaying the monument," the court said in its ruling.
"In light of these historical and secular considerations, and the FOE's freedom to remove the monument at any time, no reasonable observer would believe the continued display on the Memorial Ground was intended to advance religion," the court added.
The monument had been donated to the city in 1958 where it stood at first outside city hall. It was later moved to a city park where it stood alongside war memorials, a George Washington plaque, and other historical markers.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which represented the FOE in the suit, praised the court's ruling that the monument can stay. The ruling comes just days before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments in two cases - from Texas and Kentucky.
"This is an important victory underscoring the argument we put forth from the beginning - that this monument does not reflect a government endorsement of religion, but merely reflects the fact that this monument has been a part of the fabric of this community for nearly 50 years," said Francis J. Manion, senior counsel of the ACLJ.
"It is clear the court understood that this monument reflected the fact that the Commandments served as a basis of western law and played a key role in the development of our legal system," said Manion.
"This is an important victory for the public display of the Ten Commandments as we eagerly await the decisions of the Supreme Court on this critical issue," Manion added.
The ACLJ has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the Ten Commandment cases the Supreme Court is considering, and it has two more cases from Ohio pending before the high court which will be determined by the outcome of the Kentucky and Texas cases.
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