ICC Note: Following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a county board of supervisors in Nelson County, VA decided to temporarily cover lettering that reads “Keep God’s Commandments” in a local courthouse. While the phrase has been covered for the past 50 years, the FFRF sent a letter of complaint after it learned that some members of the board wanted to keep the lettering visible as they renovate the property. As a result, the board opted to place a removable cover over the phrase so that they will be able to display the lettering in the future easily if the opportunity arises.
By Heather Clark
08/11/2017 United States (Christian News Network) – 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.