ACLU will review displays of Ten Commandments in Interior

Monday's Supreme Court decisions reopen the question

Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2005

FAIRBANKS - The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska will take a fresh look at the Ten Commandments displayed in Fairbanks' public buildings following two rulings this week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Ten Commandments have been on display for more than a year at the Fairbanks North Star Borough administration building and the city halls of Fairbanks and North Pole.

"Now that we have some more guidance on what is a violation we will certainly re-evaluate those displays," said Michael W. Macleod, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska.

The ACLU has written a letter warning the city of Fairbanks and the borough that posting the Ten Commandments amounted to an endorsement of Christianity, ACLU staff attorney Jason Brandeis said.

Municipal officials and attorneys in the Fairbanks area said they would also review their policies on displaying the religious directives to ensure they fit within the limits of the law.

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments in some public areas, while declaring others in violation of the separation of church and state.

The nation's highest court ruled that displays of the Ten Commandments are not inherently unconstitutional, but each case must be evaluated to determine whether it amounts to a promotion of religion by a governmental body.

It found that a 6-foot granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas Capitol was part of a larger display commemorating state history, and was therefore in compliance with the First Amendment.

But in a case involving framed copies of the Ten Commandments in two Kentucky courtrooms, the court ruled that the displays were unconstitutional because they went too far in endorsing religion.

The court said some displays in courtrooms would be appropriate as long as they maintained neutrality in honoring the nation's legal history.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker said that is exactly what the borough is doing in its display.

"We don't think we're in violation of the law," Whitaker said. "We think it's appropriate that the Ten Commandments can be displayed in a historical context as the basis for the law we all live under."

Frank Turney, who describes himself as a community activist, presented the mayors of the borough, Fairbanks and North Pole with framed copies of the Ten Commandments last year.

"The Ten Commandments is the cornerstone of our moral society that we should all live by," Turney said.

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