(CN) – The 6th Circuit on Thursday ruled that a Kentucky county can display the Ten Commandments alongside other historical documents in a county courthouse.
In a 2-1 decision, the appellate panel in Cincinnati overturned an injunction barring Grayson County from displaying the Ten Commandments in its “Foundations of American Law and Government” exhibit, which included the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence and seven other historical documents.
Two citizens and the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the Ten Commandments’ presence in the Grayson County Fiscal Court violated the separation of church and state.
U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley barred the display in 2008, but the appeals court reversed, saying the county intended for the display to have an educational purpose, not a religious one.
“The plaintiffs … have failed to present evidence sufficient to demonstrate that an objective observer could have concluded that the county’s asserted secular purpose was a sham,” Judge David McKeague wrote.
“Indeed, there may be good reason to believe that religious purpose underlies many of the attempts in recent years to place copies of the Ten Commandments in public buildings,” he added. “Nonetheless … it is those objecting to a display of the Ten Commandments who bear the burden of producing evidence sufficient to prove that the governmental entity’s secular purpose is a sham” (original emphasis).
Judge Karen Nelson Moore dissented, unconvinced by the county’s rationale.
She concluded that the county “had a predominantly religious purpose in hanging the Foundations Display and that the Display had the purpose or effect of endorsing religion.”