Since 2006, this has been the view outside the Dixie County Courthouse in Cross City, Florida:
That would be a giant granite monument of the Ten Commandments. At its base is the phrase “LOVE GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.”
The ACLU of Florida sued the county over this in 2007 on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff. Meanwhile, the county maintained that they weren’t endorsing religion because the monument was a gift from local resident Joe Anderson Jr. and they argued it was a “private expression of free speech.”
This past week, though, the fight came to an end… and the monument is staying right where it is.
Say what now? The monument is legal?!
Well, not exactly. The decision had nothing to do with the legality of the case:
The case was not decided on First Amendment grounds. Instead, Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice M. Paul granted the ACLU’s motion to voluntarily dismiss the case because its “John Doe” plaintiff was no longer considering moving to Dixie County and therefore had no legal standing to bring a case.
Dixie County Commission Chairman Jason Holifield described the outcome of the case as a “blessing” and a sign that “God is on our side.”
I guess when the other side is forced to drop out, you can claim victory… but it really doesn’t say anything good about you.
Liberty Counsel, representing the County, is downplaying the fact that the case was decided on a technicality in its own press release:
Liberty Counsel Senior Litigation Counsel Harry Mihet said, “The ACLU got caught with its hands in the constitutional cookie jar. Its prolonged campaign against the good citizens of Dixie County has come to a screeching halt. In getting kicked out of court, the ACLU has learned that it cannot impose its San Francisco values upon a small town in Florida, using a phantom member from North Carolina.”
Well, the ACLU can fight for Constitutional values again — if a courageous local plaintiff steps up. So the case isn’t lost yet. It’s just pushed back to a later time.
But after six years in the courts, this is a frustrating result. It’s not the ACLU’s fault their client didn’t do what he said he was going to do, but they’re on the hook for the court costs. Hopefully, that won’t discourage them from taking up the case again in the future since that monument has no business being there.
(Thanks to Annie for the link)