Court Rules that Ten Commandments Monument Is Constitutional

Jan 6, 2005

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that the City of La Crosse's sale of land containing a monument of the Ten Commandments to the Fraternal Order of Eagles is constitutional. The monument, donated to the City by the Eagles, was located in a public park for many years. After the Freedom from Religion Foundation ("FFRF") filed suit, the City sold the land to the Eagles and a fence and informative signs were added, but FFRF refused to drop the case.

In its analysis, the Court relied on an earlier almost identical case from Marshfield, Wisconsin, stating: "The fence and signs noting the monument site is private property are sufficient for a reasonable passerby to differentiate it from public property." The earlier case involved a statue of Jesus Christ donated to the City of Marshfield by the Knights of Columbus and placed in a city park. Mathew Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, represented the Henry Praschak Memorial Foundation that bought the land from the City.

The issue of public displays of the Ten Commandments has caused confusion and chaos in the courts, but will be resolved by the United States Supreme Court in McCreary County and Pulaski County vs. ACLU of Kentucky. The Seventh Circuit opinion recognized that the Supreme Court will soon consider the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays. On March 2, 2005, Staver will argue the case on behalf of both counties who were sued for erecting displays of historical documents containing the Ten Commandments.

Regarding the decision in La Crosse, Staver stated, "This case shows what extreme positions groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation will take to erase all references to God from public sight. The court made a common sense ruling in the La Crosse case."