The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog group, is looking for Dixie County residents willing to join a lawsuit challenging the placement of a 6-ton monument of the Ten Commandments on the steps of the Dixie County Courthouse last week.
The Foundation, an association with nearly 8,000 mostly atheist and agnostic members nationwide, has a successful track record in suing over the faith-based initiative." This fall, its litigation got the Federal Bureau of Prisons to back down from plans to open "single faith" ministry pods in federal penitentiaries.
The Foundation sent a formal request today to the Dixie County Board of Commissioners asking it to remove the monument. Spokeswoman Annie Laurie Gaylor noted that the county is flouting well-established law, including a ruling by the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta in the notorious Judge Roy Moore case. Moore was ordered to remove a Ten Commandments monument placed in the Alabama state courthouse. The county's action also violates last year's decision by the Supreme Court ruling that Kentucky officials violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in placing a Ten Commandments display in a courthouse.
"This display is far more visible, unavoidable and intrusive than the one deemed unconstitutional in the Kentucky case," Gaylor said.
The fact that the granite monument depicting an open bible was paid for privately does not mitigate the violation, Gaylor said, pointing to a 1980 ruling by the Supreme Court in the Stone v. Graham case, which said government display of donated Ten Commandment posters was an impermissible endorsement.
"The First Commandment alone makes it obvious why the Ten Commandments may not be posted by government bodies. Dixie County has no business telling citizens which god they must have, how many gods they must have, or that they must have any god at all!"Gaylor said.
Making the violation even more egregious is the inscription at the base admonishing citizens to "Love God and keep his commandments."
The Foundation has been contacted by many of its Florida membership. "We plan to sue, but we do need at least one local plaintiff who lives in Dixie County or who has very regular business at the courthouse," Gaylor said.