June 2024 Church & State Magazine - June 2024

Minn. county jail paints over Ten Commandments in gym


Written on the wall: Minn. jail’s commandments display (Itasca Community Television/Facebook)

A large display of the Ten Commandments in a newly opened jail in Itasca County, Minn., has been removed after sparking controversy.

A Protestant version of the Commandments was painted on the wall of the gym at the Itasca County Jail. The facility, which cost $75 million, opened in early May for public tours. Some residents complained about the religious statement being included. Last month, officials ordered it painted over.

In a press release, Itasca County Sheriff Joe Dasovich said the Ten Commandments were among several other murals and displays in the jail that are meant to “encourage and support” inmate programs.

“The display and related quotes are not intended to offend or create division,” the release read. “We will continue to provide diverse programming to our inmates as citizens of Itasca County.”

Dasovich told the MinnPost that the Commandments and the other displays were approved before he became sheriff.

“Legal representation says that they should be painted over,” he said. “We’re leaving the county open to litigation. My job is to manage risk, daily, and I need to weigh the risks and make a decision.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation had asked that the Commandments be removed from the facility.

Brett Skyles, Itasca County administrator, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Ultimately, it just had to do with defending the situation and how many public dollars might be at risk there.”

In other news about Ten Commandments displays:

  • Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) has vetoed a bill that would have given public schools teachers options to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms. In a veto message, Hobbs said she had “serious concerns’’ that the measure could survive a legal challenge.
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