This one is unfolding in Florida:
The folks who live in this sparsely populated rural region along Florida’s upper west coast don’t like outsiders butting in, especially when it comes to their religious beliefs.
They’re miffed, to put it politely, and appealing a federal judge’s order to remove a five-foot high granite monument that prominently displays the Ten Commandments in front of the Dixie County courthouse by Sunday.
It’s the latest skirmish in a years-long conflict across theUnited States between state and local officials who have wanted to honor the laws that help define their faith and those who argue such displays should stay out of any public forum under a constitution that bars the establishment of religion.
It has been almost eight years since former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from office and gained nationwide notoriety for refusing to move another huge granite monument to the commandments from the court’s lobby. But similar disputes continue to trickle through the courts in towns and counties nationwide.
Dixie County officials and residents say support for their monument is unanimous and they accuse outsiders of trampling on their way of life.
“We have not had one negative comment from the community,” said county managerMike Cassidy, a 48-year-old, fourth-generation Floridian who grew up in Cross City. “No one in this county has come forward and said, ‘this should be removed.’ It has been totally unanimous.”
The six-ton, $20,000 monument still sits on the courthouse steps. Beneath the commandments, the monument reads in large capital letters, “LOVE GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.”
Residents here have long had a reputation for their independence and don’t take kindly to outsider interference, even if it’s a constitutional issue.
“There will be people standing around it to protect it when they come to remove it,” said Donald Eady, a 38-year-old mobile mechanic who lives in neighboring Old Town, a short jaunt south down four-lane U.S. Highway 19. “The people here enjoy it. We should have that freedom, but they’re taking our freedom away daily.”