Ten Commandments monument in Maryland county will stay

BALTIMORE – A Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Allegany County courthouse that is nearly identical to one the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2005 will stay in place after the offended person who sued to uproot it dropped his lawsuit Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Jeffrey Davis, a resident of a neighboring county who owns property in Allegany County filed the lawsuit to have the monument removed because he claimed “he is offended” by it.

Attorneys representing the Allegany County commissioners had filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in June but Davis decided to drop his suit without specifying his reason for doing so.

“The emotional response of an offended passerby doesn’t automatically amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. “Mr. Davis was right to end his quest to uproot this monument, which is virtually identical to a monument in Texas that the U.S. Supreme Court already upheld. Because the county’s monument would survive constitutional scrutiny, we are pleased that it will be able to stay.”

In 1957, the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the monument, which stands not far from a monument to George Washington. In its 2005 decision in Van Orden v. Perry, the high court upheld the constitutionality of a nearly identical monument, also donated by FOE, on the grounds of the Texas Capitol complex. The court ruled that the monument did not violate the Establishment Clause.

In its 2014 ruling in the ADF case Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court questioned the legitimacy of “offended observer” claims, saying that adults “often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views….”

Jones Day attorneys Noel Francisco, James Uthmeier, and Kaytlin Rohol are co-counsel on behalf of the county commissioners in the case, Davis v. Shade, which the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland has agreed to dismiss.

— CNJ staff

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