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Ten Commandments back up in courthouse

LEITCHFIELD — Amid anthems, hymns, and plenty of "amens," a copy of the Ten Commandments was placed back on the wall at the Grayson County courthouse Monday, almost a decade after it was removed.

"We all love Jesus Christ and anything that comes with it," exclaimed Steve Mahurin, a minister who works for the road department, one of several hundred residents who showed up for the ceremony. "This represents our savior, and it's the law we have to go by."

The ceremony was sparked by Thursday's decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a lower court order. According to the 2-1 decision, posting the Ten Commandments did not violate the U.S. Constitution because it was part of a display of historical documents, including the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact and the Bill of Rights.

A federal judge in Louisville had previously ordered county officials to remove the Ten Commandments from the display because it violated the constitutional rule against government endorsing or promoting religion.

But Grayson County Judge-Executive Gary Logsdon says the appellate judges got it right.

"This brings back our heritage and lets us know how our forefathers founded this country," said Logsdon, who also keeps a copy of the commandments in his office.

Magistrate Presto Gary said the fight over the Ten Commandments, which started in 2001, has been a long one.

"If we don't get something back for Christian people to believe in, what kind of shape will our country be in?" he asked. "But we had faith and kept praying."

"It's something good for everybody to live by," added fellow magistrate Jason Dennis.

Harold Johnson also agreed.

"Our country was founded on Christian values," he said. "This was taking our Christian values away from us."

As a paper copy of the Ten Commandments was placed carefully back in its frame, the crowd spontaneously broke into God Bless America, and Amazing Grace. Afterward, everyone crowded around a big sheet cake emblazoned with an American flag.

The fight might not be completely over.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which represented two county residents seeking to remove the display, said it is reviewing whether to appeal the decision. Judge Karen Nelson Moore strongly dissented from the other judges on the appeals court.

For instance, the motion to approve the display was that the county "place the Ten Commandments in the courthouse along with the historical documents," Moore said in her dissent.

"The county's asserted purpose here — that the display was posted for educational or historical reasons — is a sham and should be rejected," Moore wrote.

The other two judges disagreed.

The available evidence did not support a finding that promoting religion was the main reason for approving the display, the majority opinion said.

The officials didn't pass any resolutions stating a clear religious purpose and had little official involvement in the display, the opinion said.

Kentucky has been a key battleground on the issue of the Ten Commandments, with some of the most prominent cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court originating here.

The ACLU and residents have sued a number of counties in the last decade over posting of the Ten Commandments, including Pulaski, McCreary, Harlan, Mercer, Rowan, Garrard and Jackson.

In his remarks Monday, Logsdon noted that Grayson County has incurred no costs in the case because they are being picked up by the Liberty Counsel, a conservative non-profit based in Virginia and Florida.

A federal judge ordered the Grayson commandments taken down in May 2002 as part of the challenge by the ACLU and local residents.

Monday's ceremony ended with a prayer by Clearview Baptist Church minister Chester Shartzer.

"I'm so proud of the Christian leadership we've had in Grayson County," he said.

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