Dixie Co. Ten Commandments Fight Sent Back to Lower Court

By: The News Service of Florida; Whitney Ray Email
By: The News Service of Florida; Whitney Ray Email

The plaintiff does not own property in Dixie County, though he was "shocked" by the statue while visiting the courthouse to check out records about a possible property purchase, according to the order.

August 17, 2012 -

TEN COMMANDMENTS FIGHT SENT BACK TO LOWER COURT

Federal appellate judges this week ordered a lower court to plunge back into a dispute about whether a Ten Commandments statue outside the Dixie County courthouse is unconstitutional. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said a lower court needs to hold a hearing about whether the plaintiff in the case had the proper legal standing to challenge the statue. In an order issued Wednesday, the appeals court said the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, primarily lives in North Carolina and has a winter home in Levy County, which is next to Dixie County. The plaintiff does not own property in Dixie County, though he was "shocked" by the statue while visiting the courthouse to check out records about a possible property purchase, according to the order. The appellate judges said a lower court needs to determine whether that is a sufficient interest to be the plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. "Doe is not a resident of the county, nor does he have any legal or business obligations that would require him to visit the county,'' the order said. "His sole source of potential injury in this case springs from his interest in possibly buying land in the county. Doe contends that the offensiveness of the statue has imposed a burden on him to avoid the county courthouse and to abandon his property search in the county; he alleges that this burden is tantamount to an injury." The statue, which was approved by the Dixie County Commission, was donated and built in 2006 by a private citizen. A federal judge in Gainesville last year said it should be removed, finding that the county was sending “an unmistakable message that it supports and promotes the religious message that appears on it."

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November 18, 2011 -

STAND FOR AMERICA Release

Rally for freedom!

November 27, 2011
4:00 p.m.
County Courthouse, Cross City, Florida

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Dixie County, demanding the removal of the Ten Commandments monument at the courthouse, a monument placed by a private citizen according to the Open Forum guidelines crafted by the Dixie County commissioners.

In the first ruling the judge ordered the monument removed. That ruling is being appealed.
You can help in this fight! Come to the Rally Nov. 27th!

The purpose of this rally is to inform freedom-loving Americans why this fight is so important. It is being sponsored by Dixie County citizens in order to sound the alarm that our rights and freedoms are being taken away. This rally is also a fundraiser to fight the ACLU in court. Liberty Counsel is defending the County. Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm, provides legal services free of charge.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Opening prayer: Pastor Mike Brown, First Baptist Church, Cross City

Presentation of the colors - Pledge of Allegiance

National Anthem

Special Music: Dixie County interdenominational choir

Speaker: Joe Anderson, the private citizen who placed the monument

Speaker: KrisAnne Hall, constitutional attorney, former state prosecutor, historian

Speaker Frank Lay, retired principal, Pace High School, threatened with jail by the ACLU for praying

Speaker: Harry Mihet, lead counsel, Liberty Counsel, the attorney arguing this case against the ACLU

Offering, special music

Closing prayer

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UPDATE 8-15-2011

ACLU Agrees to Wait on Judge's Ruling for a Stay

Cross City, FL (AP) - The attorney for Dixie County says
officials are waiting on a federal judge to rule on their request
for a stay before removing a six-ton monument of the Ten
Commandments from the front steps of the courthouse in north
Florida.

Attorney Jennifer Ellison said the county and officials
representing the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Union agreed to wait 30 more days to give the judge plenty of time
to consider the defendant's motion for a stay.

U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul ruled last month in favor of
the ACLU, which sued Dixie County to remove the monument from the
front of the courthouse in Cross City. The monument was purchased
by a local businessman and originally supposed to have been removed by Aug. 14.

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UPDATE 8-10-2011

Another Round in Ten Commandments Fight Hits Florida

Cross City, FL (AP) - The folks who live in Dixie County along
Florida's upper west coast don't like outsiders butting in, especially when it comes to their religious beliefs.

They're appealing a federal judge's order to remove a five-foot
high granite monument displaying the Ten Commandments in front of
the Dixie County courthouse. Without a court injunction, the
monument is supposed to be removed by Sunday.

It's the latest skirmish in a years-long conflict across the United States between state and local officials over whether such displays should stay out of any public forum under a Constitution that bars the establishment of religion.

Dixie County residents say support for their monument is
unanimous. They accuse outsiders of trampling on their way of life.
The ACLU of Florida says the monument can be displayed elsewhere.

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[UPDATE] 7-27 - TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) --

Dixie County notified the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on Tuesday that it is appealing a Florida federal judges order to take down a granite Ten Commandments statue in front of the county's courthouse in Cross City. The lawyers for the county include Matthew and Anita Staver, and Horatio Mihet, all attorneys for the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel. The monument, which tells visitors to the courthouse to Love God and Keep His Commandments, is the subject of a challenge filed in 2007 by the American Cilvil Liberties Union, which argued it essentially represents government speech in favor of one religion. On July 15, U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul in Gainesville agreed with the ACLU and ordered the court to take down the monument. The county filed its notice of appeal with the Atlanta-based appeals court with no comment.

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[UPDATE] 7-22 11am - TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --

Dixie County officials are appealing the recent decision by a federal judge that ordered them to remove a six-ton monument displaying the Ten Commandments in the front of the county courthouse building in Cross City.

The county commission voted 5-0 Thursday to seek a stay in Judge
Maurice Paul's decision requiring them to remove the monument
within 30 days.

The county's appeal to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
claims the ruling quashes private speech in a public forum since
the monument was paid for by a private citizen.

Paul decided in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union
Florida which brought the suit in 2007

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Judge Orders Commandments Removed

Residents in a small north Florida county are outraged tonight. A federal judge has ordered county officials to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the county courthouse. Officials have less than a month to find a new location for the commandments.

Eighteen hundred people call Cross City Florida home. There are more churches in the town than gas stations and at the entrance of the Dixie County Courthouse, engraved in stone, are the Ten Commandments.

Darcy Patterson says the commandments belong at the courthouse… but a federal judge disagrees. The judge ruled last week the commandments had to go because they violated the separation of church and state laid out in the US Constitution.

“It has nothing to do with the courthouse. It’s our God, our Maker,” said Darcy.

Dixie County residents are furious.

“If they are going to take it down we should all picket,” said Dixie County resident Nancy Lupo.

“Federal judge he doesn’t come down here everyday and see this,” said Bo Patterson.

“It should stay it’s not hurting anything,” said Georgia Jerrells.

The court battle to remove the statue began in 2007, after the ACLU filed suit.

This is actually owned by a private citizen, that’s the case Dixie County made in court. They also posted a plaque saying the views and opinions expressed in this area aren’t necessarily the views of the county, but it wasn’t enough to appease the judge.

Now officials have until August 14th to get rid of the statue. Lifelong Dixie County residents Richard and Sissy Elton are sad to see it go.

Richard: If people don’t want to look at it, they don’t want to see it there, then turn their head.
Sissy: Come in the backdoor.
Richard: Come in the backdoor.

Residents are asking the owner to place the commandments on private property as close to the courthouse as possible. We tried to talk to Dixie County officials to see if they planned to move the statue or appeal the decision, but they denied our request for an interview. The ACLU of Florida issued this statement about the judge’s decision.

“We hope that Dixie County officials will find a permanent place for it at a church or other house of worship, which is the appropriate place for religious monuments. Removing the monument is the right thing to do. It is not the business of government to promote religious messages about monotheism, idolatry, taking the Lord’s name in vain or honoring the Sabbath,” said Howard Simon the Executive Director of the ACLUFL.

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Gainesville, Florida - July 19, 2011 -

A federal judge in Gainesville has ordered Dixie County to remove a six-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments and directing viewers to “Love God and Keep His Commandments,” from the front of the county’s courthouse in Cross City. The Dixie County Commission gave the OK for the monument in 2006, and the ACLU of Florida sued. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul ruled against the county and ordered the monument removed. The ACLU had argued the monument represented government speech, violating constitutional prohibition against government promotion of religion. Dixie County had argued that it was merely providing a forum for a local citizen who made the monument – and continues to own it - to express his religious beliefs, and that the monument was therefore protected by the First Amendment. “The monument is five-feet tall, made of six tons of granite, and sits alone at the center of the top of the steps in front of the county courthouse that houses every significant local government office,” Paul’s opinion noted. And, citing a previous precedent-setting case, Paul found that the by putting it there, the county was sending “an unmistakable message that it supports and promotes the religious message that appears on it.” Howard Simon, state director of the ACLU, said the right place for the monument is at a church. “It is not the business of government to promote religious messages about monotheism, idolatry, taking the Lord’s name in vain or honoring the Sabbath,” Simon said in a statement.


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