Ten Commandments monument denied in Bureau County | News
Story By Donna Barker and Terry Simon, used with permission from Bureau County Republican
PRINCETON — The Bureau County Board has closed the door to placing a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn of the Bureau County Courthouse.
At Tuesday’s county board meeting, Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann reviewed the court rulings on Ten Commandments cases in Florida and Oklahoma, before making his recommendation to deny the request made by David Beck of Malden and his committee to place a Ten Commandment monument on the courthouse lawn.
Herrmann said the Green v. Haskell County case in Oklahoma involved a Ten Commandments monument on a courthouse lawn, similar to what has been requested for Bureau County. In that case, the federal district court upheld its constitutionality, but then the court of appeals rejected it. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case, which is an important statement in itself, Herrmann said.
“The importance of that to you is that the U.S. Supreme Court does not disagree with that decision (court of appeals),” Herrmann said. “They (Supreme Court) have no intention to change that decision so they refuse to accept the appeal of that case.”
An ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) v. Dixie County case in Florida dealt with a six-ton Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse steps in that county. That monument action was deemed unconstitutional by the district court, Herrmann said.
In addition to his research into Ten Commandments monument cases, Herrmann said he has received a letter from the ACLU stating its objections to the proposed Bureau County monument.
“That tells you that there’s already a potential objection to any monument proposed in Bureau County,” Herrmann said. “With the certainty of attorney’s fees and the possibility of awarding damages, I think the board should deny the petition for the proposal until you get a clear ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that this will be allowed.”
As another consideration, Herrmann said there is no statue of limitations on the action, which means there could be a lawsuit brought against the county immediately or decades from now.
According to the ACLU letter, a government display of objects like the Ten Commandments can violate the religious liberty guarantees of the U.S. and Illinois constitutions if they are seen as having a religious purpose or having the effect of endorsing religion in general or a specific religion in particular, thus marking non-adherents as second -class citizens. The Ten Commandments are highly and inherently religious, the ACLU letter stated.
Following Herrmann’s presentation, board member Steve Sondgeroth asked where the individual’s freedom of speech comes into consideration. Herrmann said an individual verbally expressing his opinion is one thing but a installing a permanent monument is another thing.
Board member Marsha Lilley said she was in favor of the proposed monument because the Ten Commandments represents the country’s heritage. Whether people believe in one god, 10 gods, or no gods is a personal choice, but the Ten Commandments are part of the country’s heritage. The Ten Commandments have been taken out of schools and have been replaced by guns, she said.
“For us to stand back and let the ALCU come against this and overrule us, I’m just not for it,” Lilley said.
In his comments, board member Mike Kohr said he didn’t believe anyone on the board was opposed to the Ten Commandments personally, but that minorities in the United States are afforded the right to some protection from the tyranny of the majority.
“That’s important in all cases, especially in cases where we’re having to make the judgment and we are the majority,” Kohr said.
Kohr quoted founding father Thomas Jefferson as saying “Any man who values liberty of conscience for himself should resist invading that of others lest, by change or circumstances, their case become his own.”
Kohr also quoted Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader, as saying “Trouble no man about his religion. Respect all others in their view and demand that they respect yours.”
In his opinion, placing a Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse lawn or across the street, not only violates the wisdom of Tecumseh’s words, but also violates the establishment clause of the Constitution and, in a way, the county board members’ own oath of office, Kohr said.
After further discussion, Kohr’s motion to deny the monument proposal was overwhelming denied on a voice vote.
‘I will honor their decision’
MALDEN — David Beck said he’s very disappointed but not surprised at the Bureau County Board’s decision Tuesday night to not allow a Ten Commandments monument to be placed on the lawn of the Bureau County Courthouse.
Beck had presented the Ten Commandments proposal in April to the county board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee for consideration. Committee Chairman Kristi Warren then presented the proposal at last month’s full county board meeting. Following research into the issue, Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann recommended at Tuesday night’s county board meeting for the board to deny the request.
On Wednesday, Beck said he and the other proposal supporters knew they “were fighting an uphill battle” when it came to getting the monument approved.
“I believe there are many on the county board who reflect the attitudes of the citizenry of Bureau County, men and women who are conservative and God-fearing,” Beck said. “However, it takes a great deal of courage to take the route that you know will bring challenges and introduce into your life difficulties that would not be there if you took another route. “
Beck said he would not speculate on any board member’s motives or character. Each board member had to make the decision based upon what he/she believed is better for Bureau County, he said.
“I appreciate their allowing me to present my proposal to them, and I will honor their decision,” Beck said.
Looking at the historical importance of the Ten Commandments, Beck said the Ten Commandments are part of the country’s history and heritage, on which the country’s laws are based. However, he knows the political arena today is difficult and much different than what the founding fathers envisioned.
“There are political divisions and strife that concerns us all that our system of government may be broken and in need of a significant overhaul. I certainly don’t have the answers and will leave the practicalities of this discussion and debate to our congressional scholars,” Beck said. “However, I do know this, over 200 years ago a group of men with varied interests and philosophies, from different backgrounds, of different means and capabilities, and with much to lose, put the welfare of their fledgling country above their own. At great risk, they literally put a historical ‘stake in the ground’ and committed to a series of fundamental principles and beliefs that laid the groundwork for our great country and completely reshaped the modern political agenda. These men stood for what was right and held sacred doing what was best for this country’s future. They feared God, not the ACLU. They were driven by courage, not political correctness.”
Looking to the future of the proposed monument, Beck said he does not believer there are any legal appeals or litigation at the supporters’ disposal. The group will meet in a few days to weigh its options. The group may choose another, less controversial location for the monument, he said.
(story reprinted with permission from the Bureau County Republican – bcrnews.com)