BALTIMORE, Md. — A Maryland humanist who had filed a federal lawsuit in seeking the removal of a Ten Commandments monument outside of a county courthouse has now dropped his legal challenge.
As previously reported, Jeffrey Davis, an emergency room physician, had filed the suit in March over his offense with the display, which he also deemed to be unconstitutional.
“Plaintiff believes that the monument represents only one particular religious point of view and therefore sends a message of exclusion to those who do not adhere to that particular religion (Christianity), in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” the lawsuit read. “Plaintiff does not want to have exposure to the monument on government property in the future.”
The monument at issue was erected at the Allegany County courthouse in 1957 after being donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. It sits not far from another monument honoring the nation’s first president, George Washington.
Davis first called for the removal of the monument in 2004, and while his request was granted, the display was restored within days following a public outcry.
The following year, he formed the group Citizens for a Secular Government and sought to place his own monument at the courthouse, but his effort was unsuccessful.
Last month, the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a motion for dismissal of Davis’ March suit, noting that a nearly identical monument was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“[H]is broad stroke recitation of the elements of an Establishment Clause claim does not survive Van Orden, where the Supreme Court made abundantly clear that the presence of a Ten Commandments monument identical to the one at issue here—indeed, one that, like here, was donated by the Eagles—on public lands is not itself a violation of the Establishment Clause,” it wrote.
The cited case is 2005 decision of Van Orden v. Perry, which centered around a display at the Texas state capitol building.
On Monday, Davis filed a letter in U.S. District Court advising that he had decided to drop the case. No explanation was provided and he declined to speak with the Associated Press about his reasoning.
“The emotional response of an offended passerby doesn’t automatically amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey in a statement. “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.”
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization—not upon the power of government, far from it—we’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity … to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God,” said Founding Father James Madison in a 1778 address to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia.