Framed Ten Commandments to stay

Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2004

FAIRBANKS - A framed copy of the Ten Commandments will remain at Fairbanks City Hall, despite opposition by the Alaska Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Mayor Steve Thompson said.

The foundation, an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, sent a strongly worded letter to city attorney Herb Kuss after Fairbanks resident Frank Turney hung the document next to a copy of the Bill of Rights in the City Council chambers during a March 8 meeting.

Thompson said Monday that Kuss notified him of the ACLU letter and asked how the city should respond.

"I instructed (Kuss) to send the letter back to them and inform them that we weren't going to remove them," Thompson said.

Turney, who wore a T-shirt Monday reading "A.C.L.U. Sucketh - Matthew Frank 1:10," said the Ten Commandments is an important historical document and a code of conduct for life.

In a March 12 letter, ACLU foundation legal staffer Jason Brandeis said the display "raises serious constitutional and public policy concerns," and should be removed from government property.

Brandeis said the display potentially discriminates against non-Christian citizens who use the public building.

"The display indicates that the city government endorses the purely religious message it conveys, and any reasonable observer would conclude that the city was endorsing either religion in general or Judeo-Christianity in particular, either of which is patently unconstitutional," Brandeis wrote.

Brandeis said Tuesday the foundation asked Fairbanks officials to respond by Friday.

"We have received no official response from the city and until we do we have no comment," he said.

Councilwoman Donna Gilbert praised the mayor's stance.

"I'm so sick and tired of groups like the ACLU thinking they can control our city," Gilbert said.

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