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Some Question if Ten Commandment Monument is Legal

Some Question if Ten Commandment Monument is Legal

Posted - Jul. 9, 2003 at 5:25 p.m.



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Sam Penrod ReportingA threat of a lawsuit puts the future of a Pleasant Grove monument to the Ten Commandments in question. Can it stay, or will it have to go? A well-known Salt Lake attorney has succeeded in getting similar monuments removed from public property in other Utah cities.

The monument has been in place since 1971, a donation from the local Eagles club. While most people recognize the Ten Commandments as the basis for all law, a group argues posting the commandments in public is a violation of church and state.

Nestled behind the old Pleasant Grove City hall is this rock monument, one of nine given to Utah cities in the 1970's by the Fraternal order of Eagles. But what is written on the rock has a group represented by a Salt Lake attorney, calling the monument unconstitutional.

Brian Barnard, Plaintiff's Attorney: "The Ten Commandments are clearly religious in nature the basis of the Judeo-Christian religions and because of that, government shouldn't be endorsing it."

Barnard has targeted other Ten Commandment monuments erected on public property in Utah, a couple of the cases ended up in court. Other cities moved the monuments on their own to avoid legal action.

The threatened eviction of their monument comes as a huge disappointment to the Eagles Club.

Terry Carlson, Fraternal Order of Eagles: "We're not putting it out for any one religion or to promote religion at all, we're putting it out just for the welfare of everybody."

Along with the Ten Commandments, a monument marks the city's first fire station; another honors victims of September 11th. But the mayor of Pleasant Grove does not see the Ten Commandments as a religious marker, rather a monument which reflects the values held by Americans.

Jim Danklef, Mayor of Pleasant Grove: "It's a way of life, a better way of life for us all and none of us want our children to go out and kill or steal or bear false witness against our neighbor."

Barnard says if Pleasant Grove doesn't move the monument, the Society of Separationists will file a federal lawsuit.

Brian Barnard: "My clients aren't against displaying the Ten Commandments, but they are against displaying the Ten Commandments on government property."

Mayor Danklef: "I think it's sad we have to give in to these special interest groups that are offended by something that someone gave us in good faith."

In the last year five Utah cities have moved their Ten Commandments monuments. The City Council is expected to discuss the monument dilemma next week.

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