SOMERSWORTH, N.H. — The city council of one New Hampshire municipality has voted to reinstall a Ten Commandments monument next to city hall after it was toppled last month by an unknown vandal.
The Somersworth City Council voted 7-2 on Tuesday to restore the display to its previous position, and add flagpoles and historic markers to help “neutralize” its presence.
“The city manager and I have worked out a plan which would further neutralize the monument thus ensuring that it would meet all future tests,” Mayor Dana Hilliard said, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat. “The plan includes … a historical sign outlining the history, role and purpose of the monument … and two flag poles.”
The monument had been gifted to the city by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1958 and has been displayed on a traffic island adjacent to city hall ever since.
Last month, the display was toppled by a vandal who has yet to be identified.
“This may just be somebody’s idea of savage amusement,” police remarked on Aug. 12. “If anyone has any information it would be very helpful to our investigation.”
“It is my intention to honor the history of the monument, the sensitivity surrounding the monument and its role in history but at the same time balance the question of constitutionality surrounding it,” Hilliard said last month after the Decalogue had been tipped over.
While the majority of council members supported the monument’s restoration this week, members Jessica Paradis and Jennifer Soldati opined that the city’s plan to add a marker and flags actually made an even stronger suggestion of government endorsement.
“Democracy is not about majority rule. It is the rights of the minority being protected against the tyranny of the majority,” Soldati said. “I understand the sentimentality; I get it. But I am a staunch believer in our constitution and I do believe that we are in violation.”
As previously reported, the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Van Orden v. Perry, which upheld a Ten Commandments monument at the Texas state capitol, noted that Decalogue displays are “common throughout America.”
“We need only look within our own courtroom,” the justices wrote. “Since 1935, Moses has stood, holding two tablets that reveal portions of the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew, among other lawgivers in the south frieze.”
“Similar acknowledgments can be seen throughout a visitor’s tour of our nation’s capital. For example, a large statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments, alongside a statue of the Apostle Paul, has overlooked the rotunda of the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building since 1897,” the decision continued. “And the Jefferson Building’s Great Reading Room contains a sculpture of a woman beside the Ten Commandments with a quote above her from the Old Testament (Micah 6:8).”
“A medallion with two tablets depicting the Ten Commandments decorates the floor of the national archives,” the court outlined. “Inside the Department of Justice, a statue entitled “The Spirit of Law” has two tablets representing the Ten Commandments lying at its feet. In front of the Ronald Reagan Building is another sculpture that includes a depiction of the Ten Commandments.”