MILES CITY, Mont. – A monument displaying the Ten Commandments (search) has been removed from a courthouse lawn, ending a six-year dispute over a religious display on public property.
"I'm pleased that the issue has been resolved," said County Commission Chairwoman Janet Kelly, who voted to move the monument. The stone's removal effectively ends a 4-year-old lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (search), which contended the monument violated the principle of separation of church and state.
"We had no choice. They had to be moved," said Commissioner Duane Mathison, who was among those who favored keeping the Ten Commandments in front of the courthouse.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the stone to Custer County in 1968. In 1997, several people complained about the monument and a nearby Nativity scene.
Two years later, the ACLU sued. In 2000, a consent decree was signed that offered the county the options of removing the monument, or making it part of a display at the courthouse on the evolution of law. However, commissioners decided such a display would be too expensive.
In Montgomery, Ala., the state's top judge was suspended for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building's rotunda after he was ordered to do so by a federal judge. That 5,300-pound monument was wheeled out in August and put in a storage room.
The judge, Chief Justice Roy Moore, faces a misconduct charge and could be removed from office.