BALTIMORE, Md. — A humanist in Maryland has filed a federal lawsuit in seeking the removal of a Ten Commandments monument outside of a county courthouse.
“It offended me then, and it offends me now,” Jeffrey Davis, an emergency room physician, told the Baltimore Sun on Monday.
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.
Now, Davis, 66, is asking the courts to declare the monument unconstitutional. He believes that the Decalogue promotes Christianity over other religions.
“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, filed in March, reads. “Plaintiff does not want to have exposure to the monument on government property in the future.”
Recently, the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a motion for dismissal of Davis’ 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.
“Plaintiff does not have the law on his side, and he fails to plead facts sufficient to take this case outside the realm of squarely controlling Supreme Court precedent,” ADF’s motion reads. “Therefore Plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed.”
Allegany County Commissioner William Valentine told the Times News that the monument was erected out of a campaign in the 1950’s to promote the classic film “The Ten Commandments” featuring Charlton Heston.
“These items were manufactured and put out by [filmmaker] Cecil B. DeMille,” Valentine said. “They sent these things out as promotional items for the movie. It was never in a church. It is an historic monument in an historic area.”
Therefore, he sees the display “as an historic artifact and not a religious artifact.”
Area residents have also rallied behind the monument, including local businessman Edward Taylor.
“Dr. Davis has been garbling on about this for 12 years,” he said. “To my knowledge, he’s the only one who has ever objected. I think it’s become an obsession with him. … There is absolutely no reason to take this down.”
Davis does not live in Allegany County, but owns land within its borders.