BALTIMORE (June 28, 2016)—On Friday, Alliance Defending Freedom and Jones Day attorneys representing the Allegany County commissioners filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to uproot a Ten Commandments monument on the county courthouse grounds that is nearly identical to one the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2005.
Jeffrey Davis, who resides in a neighboring county but owns property in Allegany County, filed the lawsuit to have the monument, located on the courthouse lawn, removed because "he is offended" by it, his complaint from March says.
"A Ten Commandments monument isn't unconstitutional simply because someone says he is offended by it," said ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. "The Supreme Court clarified this issue when it upheld a virtually identical monument in Texas. The emotional response of an offended passerby doesn't automatically amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause."
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…."
"A passive monument acknowledging our nation's religious heritage resting unchallenged for nearly 60 years cannot be interpreted as the government establishing a religion," Harvey explained. "Since the Supreme Court has already settled this matter, we are asking the district court to dismiss this case."
Jones Day attorneys Noel Francisco, James Uthmeier, and Kaytlin Roholt, three of more than 3,000 private attorneys allied with ADF, are co-counsel on behalf of the county commissioners in the case, Davis v. Shade, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.