Officials in a Texas county said they will not remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from county property.
Americans United, responding to a local complaint, in January sent Nueces County officials a letter informing them that the Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse lawn was an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, and demanded the Decalogue be removed.
County commissioners agreed to refuse AU’s request during a Feb. 15 meeting, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. In their refusal, commissioners pointed to a similar monument at the Texas state Capitol that was challenged in court and deemed to be permissible.
However, AU attorney Ian Smith notes Nueces County officials are misreading the reasoning that allowed the monument to stay at the Capitol.
“The reason (the U.S. Supreme Court) allowed it to stay up was because it was part of a monument garden,” Smith told the Caller-Times. “There are a ton of other nonreligious monuments surrounding the Ten Commandments.”
Added Smith, “When it’s not the focus of the display, it removes the commandments’ religious message. By saying you have one that looks just like (the one at the Capitol), it’s not what the case says. It’s the most superficial reading of the case.”
In AU’s letter, Smith and AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee pointed out that the Nueces County monument stands alone and is not part of a larger display that also includes secular elements, like the Capitol’s Ten Commandments.
Smith said AU would respond to the county’s letter, clarifying the difference between the two monuments. If Nueces County officials continue to refuse to remove the monument, Smith said AU’s Legal Department will review the issue and decide its next step.