A Kentucky county is removing the biblical Ten Commandments from its public schools after a complaint from the nation's leading freethought group.
The Lexington Herald-Leaderreports that the Breathitt County Public Schools' state-appointed manager has ordered the district's schools to remove copies of the Ten Commandments, which are on display in most rooms at the high school and middle school and some elementary school rooms.
Larry Hammond, the state-appointed manager of the county's troubled schools, said he issued the order to remove the Ten Commandments after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based freethought group "committed to the cherished principle of separation of church and state."
In the letter, FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliot wrote that the Ten Commandments had been on display in the schools for many years, which he called a "flagrant violation" of the US Constitution. Elliot told the Herald-Leader that he contacted Hammond after receiving a complaint from a student at one of the schools.
In 1980, the US Supreme Court ruled in Stone v. Graham that a Kentucky law requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in each of the state's public classrooms was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
In 1999, the Kentucky branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued three Kentucky counties-- Harlan, McCreary and Pulaski-- over the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools and government buildings. While Harlan County removed the offending religious displays, the other two counties fought in court, lost and were ordered to pay the ACLU more than $450,000 in legal expenses, according to the Herald-Ledger.
The display of the Ten Commandments is not the only Establishment Clause issue being challenged in Kentucky. Incredibly, not believing in God-- or more precisely, failure to acknowledge the state Homeland Security department's "dependence on Almighty God"-- is a criminal offense punishable by up to a year in jail. The group American Atheists is challenging what it believes is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
A recent poll revealed that one in three Americans actually favor declaring Christianity the official state religion of the United States. More than half of those who identified themselves as Republicans support such a blatantly unconstitutional move. To remedy this, fully 32 percent of Americans back a constitutional amendment establishing Christianity as the official national religion.