Board of Supervisors Votes to Temporarily Cover ‘Keep God’s Commandments’ Lettering Following Complaint

LOVINGSTON, Va. — A county board of supervisors has voted to temporarily cover painted lettering inside of its local circuit courthouse that reads “Keep God’s Commandments” following a complaint from a prominent atheistic church-state separation organization.

The phrase, which was written on a wooden beam below the balcony in the Nelson County Circuit Courthouse in the 1800’s, has been covered under layers of paint for the past 50 years.

As it was carefully unveiled in the midst of a renovation project earlier this year, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) decided to send a letter to the county Board of Supervisors to urge officials to keep the exhortation concealed after learning that some on the board might want to keep the message.

“While the original ‘Keep God’s Commandments’ lettering may date to the 19th century, that does not absolve the County from taking actions today that violate the Establishment Clause,” the organization asserted.

“Notably, it was reported that restoration work on the courthouse involved ‘carefully and painstakingly’ removing old paint in order to uncover the lettering and some county supervisors have expressed an interest in keeping the religious message. Such efforts to display a religious message are not akin to retaining a long-standing monument,” it contended.

FFRF said that the exhortation, which would face the judge and jury, would create the impression of government endorsement of religion and could also affect the ability for residents to obtain a fair trial.

“Given the size of the ‘Keep God’s Commandments’ lettering and its prominent placement, a reasonable observer would view it as an endorsement of religion by the County,” it wrote. “If the County does not remove or cover this wording, it is unmistakably placing its stamp of approval on the religious message.”

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“[Further,] the religious wording implicates not just the First Amendment, but also the ability of litigants to receive justice from an impartial jury and judiciary,” the group asserted. “Any court decision will have the stain of religious influence, which deprives citizens of their right to a fair trial.”

According to the Nelson County Times, four citizens appeared at the monthly Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday to speak about the painted lettering, all of which supported keeping the display. Some told the board to ignore those seeking to force the county to cover it back up.

“My fourth-great-grandfather Thomas Nelson Jr., the namesake of this county, didn’t give his wealth to see the future generations make a [politically] correct motion to cover up the words of our faith,” Thomas Nelson Jr. stated.

“[O]ur nation was founded as one nation under God,” said Wendy Nelson. “I am shocked. I am astounded. I am disappointed, and I am angry that this is even an issue.”

While most of the board said that they personally would prefer to keep the message uncovered, they expressed concern about the expense of a lawsuit and said that the decision as to whether or not to reveal the lettering should be in the hands of Judge Michael Garrett, who presides over cases at the courthouse.

It was therefore agreed upon that a temporary removable covering should be placed over the phrase, so that if it is ever decided to display the exhortation, it may be done easily.

The sole board member who voted against the covering was Larry Saunders, who said that the county should be more concerned about giving an account to “the big Judge.”

“As I’ve stated all along, I’m not in favor of covering it up,” he said. “I’m in favor of restoring it and being proud of it. I know I’ll be outvoted, but … I’m proud to say that I’m in favor of keeping it uncovered.”

FFRF says that it believes the board “acted in response” to its letter.


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  • Jerome Horwitz

    I don’t know what makes me more angry: These hateful anti-Christian bullies or these invertebrates who quake in fear of the bullies.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      What is it you would like to happen? They fight a lawsuit they know they’re going to lose? Why?

      • Jerome Horwitz

        How do you know they would lose it? How do you know the FFRF would even pursue it in court?

        • Ambulance Chaser

          1. Because precedent is on the FFRF’s side.

          2. Are you trying to argue that government entities who are breaking the law should continue doing so on the gamble that they won’t be sued? If so, I hope you represent my adversary sometime because that’s some of the worst legal advice a lawyer can give a client.

          • Jerome Horwitz

            The Freedom From Religion Foundation is made up of hateful anti-Christian bigots. They showed their true colors when they went after a family for having a cross for a memorial for a deceased loved one. That was petty and absolutely reprehensible. This isn’t about the separation of church and state myth. This is about silencing Christian speech. For that, they must be fought.

            As for what you think the law is, I know all about it. You think we live in a kritarchy. Which is why your opinion on legal issues is of absolutely no value whatsoever.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Are you alleging that our legal system does not run on case precedent, you’re absolutely wrong about that.

            It’s one thing to argue that it SHOULDN’T run on precedent. Although I would disagree with you, I also don’t care much about having that abstract argument.

            It’s another thing entirely to assert that it DOESN’T run on precedent. Which is obviously, demonstrably, and objectively a false statement of fact.

  • Michael C

    If someone had painted the words “Obey Sharia Law” on a United States courthouse wall a hundred years ago, it should be removed, too.

    The Commandments are not our law in the United States. They never have been. In fact, attempting to enforce even the very first Commandment is unconstitutional. Using the Ten Commandments as law is unAmerican. It has been since our great nation’s birth.

    • Amos Moses – He>i

      so the ordinances against theft, murder, adultery, etc ….. you object to those that are part of the ten ….. because ….. oh i get it …. because they are part of the ten …… hmmmm …. interesting thought process …… we should eliminate those IMMEDIATELY ….. as UNCONSTITUTIONAL ……..

      • Michael C

        so the ordinances against theft, murder, adultery, etc ….. you object to those that are part of the ten ….. because ….. oh i get it …. because they are part of the ten …… hmmmm …. interesting thought process …… we should eliminate those IMMEDIATELY ….. as UNCONSTITUTIONAL ……..

        Wow. That’s a lot of ellipses. I don’t quite understand their grammatical purpose.

        Is the bible the only thing that keeps you from running around stealing and killing?

        Personally, I can see plenty of reasons to prohibit stealing and killing that have nothing to do with biblical commandments.

        It frightens me that you can’t.

        • Amos Moses – He>i

          is the law the only thing that keeps you from those things ….. they are all in the bible ….. SO IT MUST BE UNCONSTITUTIONAL ……… throw them all out …….

          • Ambulance Chaser

            No, there’s no precedent saying that the United States can’t adopt a law that happens to also be in the Bible.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            whoop dee doo …….. but you never seem to allow for that possibility ………

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            maybe we should outlaw EVERY STATE CONSTITUTION …………

            Alabama 1901, Preamble. We the people of the State of Alabama … invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution …

            Alaska 1956, Preamble. We, the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land …

            Arizona 1911, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution …

            Arkansas 1874, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government …

            California 1879, Preamble. We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom …

            Colorado 1876, Preamble. We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of Universe …

            Connecticut 1818, Preamble. The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy …

            Delaware 1897, Preamble. Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences …
            Florida 1885, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Florida, grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty … establish this Constitution …

            Georgia 1777, Preamble. We, the people of Georgia, relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution …

            Hawaii 1959, Preamble. We, the people of Hawaii, Grateful for Divine Guidance … establish this Constitution …

            Idaho 1889, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings …

            Illinois 1870, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors …

            Indiana 1851, Preamble. We, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to Almighty God for the free exercise of the right to chose our form of government …

            Iowa 1857, Preamble. We, the People of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings … establish this Constitution …

            Kansas 1859, Preamble. We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges … establish this Constitution …

            Kentucky 1891, Preamble. We, the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties …

            Louisiana 1921, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy …

            Maine 1820, Preamble. We the People of Maine … acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity … and imploring His aid and direction …

            Maryland 1776, Preamble. We, the people of the state of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty …

            Massachusetts 1780, Preamble. We … the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe … in the course of His Providence, an opportunity … and devoutly imploring His direction …

            Michigan 1908, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom … establish this Constitution …

            Minnesota, 1857, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings …

            Mississippi 1890, Preamble. We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work …

            Missouri 1945, Preamble. We, the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness … establish this Constitution …

            Montana 1889, Preamble. We, the people of Montana, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty … establish this Constitution …

            Nebraska 1875, Preamble. We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom … establish this Constitution …

            Nevada 1864, Preamble. We the people of the State of Nevada, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom … establish this Constitution …

            New Hampshire 1792, Part I. Art. I. Sec. V. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience …

            New Jersey 1844, Preamble. We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors …

            New Mexico 1911, Preamble. We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty …

            New York 1846, Preamble. We, the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings …

            North Carolina 1868, Preamble. We the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for … our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those …

            North Dakota 1889, Preamble. We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain …

            Ohio 1852, Preamble. We the people of the state of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common …

            Oklahoma 1907, Preamble. Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessings of liberty … establish this …

            Oregon 1857, Bill of Rights, Article I. Section 2. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences …

            Pennsylvania 1776, Preamble. We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance …

            Rhode Island 1842, Preamble. We the People of the State of Rhode Island … grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing …

            South Carolina, 1778, Preamble. We, the people of the State of South Carolina … grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution …

            South Dakota 1889, Preamble. We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties … establish this Constitution …

            Tennessee 1796, Art. XI.III. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience …

            Texas 1845, Preamble. We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God …

            Utah 1896, Preamble. Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we … establish this Constitution …

            Vermont 1777, Preamble. Whereas all government ought to … enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights, and other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed on man …

            Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI … Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator … can be directed only by Reason … and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other …

            Washington 1889, Preamble. We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution …

            West Virginia 1872, Preamble. Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia … reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God …

            Wisconsin 1848, Preamble. We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, domestic tranquility …

            Wyoming 1890, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Wyoming, grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties … establish this Constitution …

          • Michael C

            is the law the only thing that keeps you from those things …..

            No. I don’t steal and kill because I believe in the reasons why these things are illegal. They are illegal because they are infringements on the rights of others. That’s morality. Even though the bible and I reach the same conclusions about many things, my sense of morality is not derived from it. Similarly, even though US law may share some similarities with biblical teachings here and there, our laws are not derived from the bible.

            Our laws share some similarities to Islamic law, too. So what?

            Our laws don’t outlaw stealing because of the bible or the koran. Our laws have secular reasonings.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            sure …. so why the spurious comment about the bible ……… oh yeah …… because you are in REBELLION to the bible …… and thats it ……..

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            and that REASONING comes from GOD …. and EVERY state constitution acknowledges that FACT ………….

    • Jerome Horwitz

      If someone had done that, the FFRF would be silent.

      This is not about what the sign says, it’s about the FFRF’s objection, which is based on hatred and bigotry.

    • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      This isn’t Saudi Arabia, Michael.

  • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    If the Word of God weren’t so powerful, atheists wouldn’t fight so hard against it.

    • Charlene

      They can’t even think rationally. One minute they’ll claim that reading the Bible helps convert people to atheism, then the next minute they’re doing a meltdown because a Bible verse appears in public. They are mentally unhinged.

    • Faithwalker

      Amen!

    • Garbage Adams

      More accurately you should say “the word of my holy book”.

  • Reason2012

    Ask supposed atheist activists and supposed LGBT activists where their outrage is on islam being taught in more public schools while Christianity is censored in those same schools. Ask them where their outrage is over the hundreds of millions of those who follow islam consenting to the death of LGBT by being thrown off of buildings, and beheading Christians. These activists are really pro-islam activists, pretending to be atheist or LGBT so they can attack Christianity.

    Meanwhile since the vast majority of Americans profess to be Christians, including our founding fathers, it’s most certainly our right to express the heritage of the United States of America.

  • MCrow

    So after reading it, it looks like the words had been painted over before. My guess is that they wanted to cover over the words due to these very same religious implications. I think arguing history is problematic because they clearly decided at some point to stop displaying the words

  • mr goody two shoes

    Hausvater blog keeping Jesus out from being under Ceasar .check out the Magdeburg confession .. How many knew Church and state is there is a clear Scriptural distinction not a Separation

  • NCOriolesFan

    Just plain IGNORE the religious bigots. They know NOTHING on religious freedom except how to make everyone that does believe in religious freedom miserable with their lawsuits.