Ten Commandments Monument Will Stay Up in Front of Florida County Courthouse After Judge Dismisses Lawsuit

Since 2006, this has been the view outside the Dixie County Courthouse in Cross City, Florida:

(Karen Voyles – The Gainesville Sun)

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)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Rain

    “1: THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.”

    Yeah that sounds so totally constitutional. Not unconstitutional at all. I’m so glad our laws are based on the “freedom of 1: THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME. religion” thingy.

  • Epikur63

    Maybe you can distribute some additional flyers with bible quotes to explain the commandments further. The behavior of Mose after he brought down the commandments are quite helpful to understand “thou shalt not have other gods” and “thou shalt not kill”. He found his people serving a golden calf and the bible says:

    ““Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.” (2.Mose 32,27-29)

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Not to mention that the rules written on that rock weren’t the ones on the stone tablets Moses brought down from the mountain.

      http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+34&version=NIV

      This whole “10 commandments written on stone tablets” thing in an invention of Cecil B. DeMille.

  • ggsillars

    I can’t blame the anonymous plaintiff for deciding that he/she didn’t want to live there after all.

  • C Peterson

    Something is wrong with the idea that a case like this requires a complainant living in the county. This is still in the U.S. I could be driving through that county (we still allow free travel in this country…) and get a driving ticket, and I’d be forced to defend myself in this court. But it is a court that I wouldn’t recognize as operating within the bounds of the Constitution.

    Any individual legally living in the U.S., any U.S. citizen, or any U.S. organization ought to be able to bring suit in a case like this no matter where they are located. Constitutional cases have no boundaries, except for the boundaries of the United States.

    • anniewhoo

      I don’t understand this either. Imagine if a community was disregarding another amendment, say the 13th. Would it require someone within that county to come forward as a plaintiff?

    • cr0sh

      This might be one of those situations where things like this are deemed under the purview of “State’s Rights”. Our supposed “representatives” love to play this card, and almost no one ever seems to call them out on it.

      For instance, here in Arizona, our governor (GED Jan) loves to crow on and on about “State’s Rights” when it comes to HB1070, but when the people of Arizona vote a multiple of times to make medical marijuana legal in our state, all of a sudden she runs to the feds and worries about them causing problems…

      I guess “State’s Rights” only extends to our representatives, and not, ya know, to the people of the state.

      • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

        Nope, has nothing to do with states rights.

        It has to do with a legal concept known as “Standing”

        Basically, a plaintiff must have suffered some direct or substantial injury or be likely to suffer such an injury if a particular wrong is not redressed. Source

        Since John Doe declared that he was now unwilling to move to Dixie County because he might have to reveal his identity if he did so he lost the ability to file/sustain a lawsuit because he no longer had standing to do so.

        Kinda sucks but that’s the way the legal system works.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    the monument was a gift from local resident Joe Anderson Jr. and they argued it was a “private expression of free speech.”

    If I had the means to move to Dixie County, I don’t think I’d start with a lawsuit. I think I’d start by gifting a large stone block with the Five Pillars of Islam inscribed on it.

    • anniewhoo

      If only it were that easy. Joe Anderson Jr., quite literally, owns most of Dixie County. His umbrella company Anderson Columbia, a road construction business owns lumber mills, concrete plants, etc. in Dixie County, not to mention thousands of acres of land. I would venture to guess that most residents in Dixie County have at least one relative who gets a paycheck from Mr. Anderson. It appears the people of Dixie worship two gods…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Standing is the most ridiculous notion.

    • Sven2547

      Yes and no. It’s ridiculous in this context, when this is about Constitutional law.

    • Blacksheep

      It can be good in that it slows down the legal process so that change – if it happens – is considered and allows for involvement of people. It’s scary when you hear about a government mandate being decided upon behind closed doors and enacted overnight.

      • WoodyTanaka

        Why is that a positive? The only benefit to taking time in this situation and situations like it is to permit the Christian scum to keep oppressing other people and breaking the law.

        • Blacksheep

          Standing applies to many other things besides freedom of religion cases – it’s a legal concept tha goes across all areas of society.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            blacksheep is not wrong. consider the nutbags who want to take the whole birther nonsense to courts, “obama is a secret muslim marxist kenyan” crap. they shouldn’t have standing. and, as most courts dealing with their bs have determined, don’t.

          • WoodyTanaka

            Yes, I know. I’m specifically talking only about the endorsement of religion cases. Being a citizen of the US should be all the standing necessary to challenge that.

      • baal

        Standing for conlaw cases should be done differently. Aside from this particular case, the FEDGOV has been winning anti-privacy cases by saying 1) that spying is confidential so there is no legal way for you to know about it 2) unless you know about it, you don’t have standing. It’s more than ridiculous that you need a pro-forma citizen to take up some of these cases where the harms are small to single persons but big to everyone as a whole.

    • David Starner

      Do you want someone in New York suing you because he claims you’re violating the leash laws? Your worst enemy suing your heirs over your will, not because he has any claim on your inheritance but just because if he wins, he forces them them go through an intestate inheritance, and if he loses, he forced them to go through a lengthy and expensive court case before they could inherit?

  • pagansister

    Perhaps those that disagree can do what I do everyday when handing businesses money that has “In God We Trust” on it—ignore it! As much as I disagree with the display, we have that God thing stuck in our faces everyday. Maybe someone will come forward to try again at removing the stone, and actually stay thru to the end!

    • coyotenose

      Because people who behave and don’t complain when their rights are infringed upon always get what they are due? Even the Christians don’t believe in that line about the meek.

  • flyb

    Forget the fact that this thing is unconstitutional. It looks absolutely hideous!

  • Witchgawd

    I’m so glad I live in south Florida along the coast, where this kind of religious stupidity is not nearly as prevalent. Go inland 10 miles and north of Palm Beach county and you may as well be traveling back in time. Is it any wonder my state is a punch line when it comes to elections?

  • Blacksheep

    Constitution aside, I find it odd that someone was suing the county while “considering moving there”. Sounds fishy – Moving is pretty stressful, normally suing the town one is “considering” moving to is not high on the list.

    • WoodyTanaka

      If I were considering moving to a place, I’d want to make sure the place wasn’t infested with law-breaking filth like these Christians.

      • Blacksheep

        If you have that much hatred for a group of people, then you should certainly do that. Nobody should have to live with people whom they consider to be “Law breaking filth.”

        • Blacksheep

          …must be a glitch somewhere. Sorry for the double post.

      • Blacksheep

        I replied to this and it never posted…

        Woody, I think that’s a good idea If you have that much hatred for a group of people. nobody should be forced to live with people whom they feel are “law-breaking filth.”

        • WoodyTanaka

          1) I have no hatred for them. I have hatred for their acts. (isn ‘t the the bs you Christians spout out your hatred of gay people, etc,?)
          2) I don’t merely feel they are law breaking filth, they objectively are.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Dixie County Commission Chairman Jason Holifield described the
    outcome of the case as a “blessing” and a sign that “God is on our
    side.”

    “God is on our side” is usually said just before someone does something very ugly, very cruel, or very lethal.

    This isn’t a defeat, it’s just a hiatus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hugh-Kramer/1217598709 Hugh Kramer

    Does it seem to anyone else that technicalities such as this are being used more and more frequently by the courts to dismiss church/state constitutional cases instead of deciding them on their merits these days?

  • Buckley

    I kinda like the San Francisco values that my father in the Bay Area lives by. We’d all be better off.

  • WallofSleep

    “San Francisco values”? The ACLU is headquartered in New York, but whatever. I guess I shouldn’t expect someone who fails so miserably at logic and constitutional law to be any good at geography.

    Still, I’d like one of these goobers to give some specifics on “San Francisco values”, and how they differ from those in the rest of the known world.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      SF values: where they don’t lynch homosexuals and “uppity” negroes. and they have sex. lots and lots of hawt, steamy sex.

      • WallofSleep

        Back when I was living in the Bay Area, SF values meant a vibrant punk/metal scene. And sex.

  • atheistsbob

    where the hell is the attorney general of the USA???? HE should be removing that crap!

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

    About six or seven years ago a group of “concerned citizen” got together and raised money to put up one of these in my town, in reaction to one being taken down from a courthouse somewhere else in the state. They were all so horrified that anyone could object to such a beautiful monument and were clearly hoping to start religious war right here in our sleepy little town. They succeeded in raising money to buy a monument and got it set up right on Main Street where everyone can see it. You could just see the smug, in-your-face-atheists!, smiles on their faces when they set it up! But, of course, nobody cared and their precious monument is just sitting there, ignored and slowly eroding away. Why? Because they put it on private land and it was all paid for by private donations. They just don’t seem to get it! No one cares about their stupid monuments. No one cares if they put up crosses and nativity scenes all over their own front lawns. We just don’t want them on our public land, paid for with our public money!

  • Mark W.

    I always laugh when people put monuments for the “10 Commandments” on the stone tablets…proving yet again that Christians don’t read their bible. Take a look, the “10 Commandments” written on the tablets that were brought down the mountain by Moses aren’t the same as the ones people put in front of court houses in the USA. The ones commonly referred to today are actually 10 of god’s spoken commandments and there are actually around 250 of them.

    • Derrik Pates

      Actually there are 613 commandments in the Old Testament.


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