FFRF calls on S.C. county council to remove divisive courthouse religious display

10 Commandments PR SC

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the Laurens County Council to remove a Ten Commandments display from its courthouse.

A concerned resident reported to the national state/church watchdog that the county courthouse has a Ten Commandments plaque on display in the hallway next to its courtroom. According to the display, the plaque was erected by the Laurens County Council in 2001. FFRF is calling on the county to remove the plaque immediately.

It is well settled that public property cannot be used to advance or affiliate the government with religion, FFRF reminds the County Council. A Ten Commandments display in a county courthouse violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In McCreary County v. ACLU (2005), the Supreme Court ruled that displays of the Ten Commandments in two Kentucky courthouses violated the Constitution. The court discussed at length the requirement of government neutrality on matters of religion.

“When a government body takes the initiative to display a religious text in the hallway of the county’s courthouse, it demonstrates a plain and undeniable preference for religion over nonreligion, and for those religions which subscribe to the Ten Commandments above all other faiths,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to County Council Chair Brown Patterson.

FFRF states that by including an explicitly religious display in the courthouse, this needlessly alienates all non-Christians, including the approximately 30 percent of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated.

“The First Commandment alone is reason why government buildings may not endorse the Commandments,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Lauire Gaylor. “Americans are free to have any god they like, as many gods as they like — or none at all! We live under the First Amendment, not the First Commandment.”

Notably, FFRF recently prevented a Ten Commandments display from being erected in a courthouse in Kanabec County, Minn. FFRF’s request was heard by the county, and a vote to have such an exhibit was rescinded.

You can read the full FFRF letter to the Laurens County Council here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with almost 40,000 members across the country, including hundreds of members in South Carolina. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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