PIKEVILLE, Ky. – A federal judge again ordered the Ten Commandments removed from public buildings in three Kentucky counties, saying their display violated the separation of church and state.
In her order filed Friday, U. S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman said the displays in schools and courthouses in the counties must be removed immediately.
Coffman had ordered the displays taken down last year after the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit challenging their constitutionality.
Each of the counties — Harlan, McCreary and Pulaski — obeyed her order, but then replaced the former displays with new ones that included the commandments along with documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
Mathew Staver, an attorney for the Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal defense organization based in Orlando, Fla., argued that the latest displays pass constitutional muster because the commandments get the same billing as the other documents.
Coffman sided with the ACLU, which alleged the displays violated a constitutional divide between church and state.
In March, Coffman asked opposing sides in the case to try to negotiate a compromise. Attorneys for the ACLU and the Liberty Counsel were unable to reach an agreement.
"We're delighted with the outcome," said David Friedman, an attorney for the ACLU.
Supporters of the display were angered that Coffman had granted the preliminary injunction, pending the outcome of the ACLU lawsuit.
"It's unbelievable that she would rule this way," said David Carr, vice president of the Ten Commandments Advancement Fund in Kentucky. "The ruling is unconstitutional, un-American and very, very disturbing."
"The case will, one way or the other, be decided by the appellate court, and from there possibly even the U.S. Supreme Court," Staver said.