SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments near the Old City Hall in Everett, Wash., does not violate the separation of church and state, the 9th Circuit ruled. The court found that the city had some secular reasons for placing the 6-foot granite monument about 40 feet from the building’s entrance.
The monument was donated to the city in 1959 by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national civic organization that donated more than 150 monuments to cities across the country. The Everett monument stood in a more conspicuous location until 1988, when it was moved to make room for a war memorial.
The three-judge panel leaned heavily on a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case involving another Eagles-donated monument standing on the grounds of the Texas Capitol. The high court found that the Ten Commandments monument did not violate the establishment clause, partly because of its ethics-based, non-sectarian roots.
Other courts have upheld the constitutionality of “longstanding plainly religious displays that convey a historical or secular message in a non-religious context.”
Judge Wardlaw said the Everett display also had “plausible secular reasons” for accepting the gift.
And as in the Supreme Court case, the Everett monument lacked a “sacred setting.” The appeals court noted that the display is “shrouded by shrubberies and obscured from view unless one is standing close by.”
“Nothing about the setting is conducive to genuflection,” Wardlaw wrote.