Sep 15, 2011

In 1959, the local Fraternal Order of Eagles donated a granite monument depicting the Ten Commandments to the City of Everett, which placed the monument in front of City Hall. Several ministers participated in and officiated at the monument’s unveiling ceremony. The monument has remained in the same place since the unveiling, but the building now houses Everett’s police department. After trying unsuccessfully to negotiate removal of the monument, AU filed suit in federal court in July 2003, raising federal and state constitutional claims. In the summer of 2004, the parties filed and briefed cross-motions for summary judgment. After the U.S. Supreme Court decided two cases concerning governmental displays of the Ten Commandments (McCreary County v. ACLU and Van Orden v. Perry), the court sought supplemental briefing on the decisions. Our brief argued that the McCreary and Van Orden decisions lent support to Plaintiff’s position. But the court disagreed, ruling that the monument was permissible under Van Orden. In early October 2005, we appealed that decision. In March 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion upholding the district court’s decision. Ruling that Van Orden controlled the case, the court of appeals held that the monument was constitutional because (a) it had a secular purpose, (b) neighboring monuments rendered the display’s context secular, and (c) the monument had been displayed for decades without causing religious divisiveness in the community. In June 2008, the court denied a petition for rehearing. We decided not to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.