By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
NEWLAND, N.C. — Visit the National Archives to view the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and you must first pass by the Ten Commandments embedded in the entryway. Head to the U.S. Supreme Court and you’ll enter via large oak doors depicting these famous laws. You’ll also see the Ten Commandments posted when you drop into the Town Hall of Newland, N.C., but not for long if the Freedom From Religion Foundation has its way.
The Wisconsin-based atheist organization, claiming its purpose is to “protect the constitutional principle of separation between government and religion” wrote a letter Feb. 7 urging the town manager to “immediately remove the Ten Commandments plaque” from the Town Hall. The letter said a local complainant noticed the plaque when conducting business at the Town Hall in January and that “anyone entering the building for necessary government business will be confronted by it.”
The Town Council turned the letter over to the town attorney, who said Thursday that Newland had taken steps to retain independent counsel who specialize in these types of issues.
Town Attorney C.L.Hughes said Newland employees and council members are under a directive not to discuss the matter since it involves “threatened litigation.”
Late last month, Councilman David Calvert told the media that town leaders would not rush to make a decision on the matter, but first wanted to research the issue thoroughly.
Meanwhile, AveryJournal.com reported this month that more than a few businesses and churches in the area have posted the Ten Commandments in protest to the FFRF complaint. An area business sells Ten Commandment signs for about $15.
“We would love to see this Avery County town and surrounding communities covered in Ten Commandment signs the way King, North Carolina donned itself in the Christian flag when it similarly came under fire,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “To think that it is illegal to display the divine laws that helped to form the very basis of our nation’s legal system is ludicrous.”
While Dr. Creech admitted that the courts have struck down some Ten Commandment displays, he pointed to other instances in which they have upheld monuments featuring the Decalogue and encouraged Newland leaders not to give up. He said he was reminded of legislation passed in North Carolina in 2001 that included parameters for public schools to follow when displaying the Ten Commandments.
“When some state lawmakers insisted that allowing these displays was just asking for legal trouble, the bill supporters did their homework and made sure that the display described, with a variety of objects of historical significance, was not promoting religion or any specific philosophy,” he explained. “Just because the Ten Commandments is a religious document doesn’t mean it isn’t part of our nation’s history and that it can’t be displayed as such.”
David Barton, a historical and constitutional expert who has testified before the Supreme Court, wrote in an affidavit for a Kentucky case that “aside from the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, it is difficult to argue that there is any single work that has had a greater or more far-reaching impact on four centuries of American life, law, and culture” than the Ten Commandments.
“For this reason alone, the Decalogue merits display,” he wrote.