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Court Allows Colorado to Keep Ten Commandments Monument

February 20, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today let Colorado keep a monument engraved with the Ten Commandments in a public park near the state Capitol.

The court, without comment, turned away arguments by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the display violates the constitutionally required separation of government and religion.

The three-foot by four-foot granite monument was placed in Lincoln Park next to the state Capitol in Denver during the mid-1950s. The monument states that it was presented by the Fraternal Order of Eagles of Colorado.

The main part of the monument is engraved with the Ten Commandments and says, ``I am the Lord thy God.″ It also depicts two Stars of David, an American flag and a bald eagle.

Also displayed in the park are memorials to war heroes, native Americans and the Challenger astronauts.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, its Colorado chapter and several Colorado residents sued the state, saying the monument’s presence on state property violated the federal and state constitutions.

The federal Constitution says: ``Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,″ while the Colorado Constitution prohibits ``preference ... to any religious denomination.″

A state judge ruled against the Freedom From Religion group, but an appellate judge reversed, saying the monument ``conveys an essential religious message that would appear ... to be endorsed and approved by the state.″

The Colorado Supreme Court disagreed, ruling the monument could remain in the park because it ``does not have the purpose or effect of endorsing religion.″ The state’s highest court said the monument represents a cornerstone of the American legal system.

The appeal acted on today said the Ten Commandments are part of religious history, not U.S. history. The monument is not displayed in any context that would emphasize the commandments’ influence on American law, the appeal said.

``If the Ten Commandments doesn’t send a religious message, what does?″ Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said today. ``Such religious pronouncements belong at houses of worship, not the seat of government.″

But Jay Sekulow, counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said today’s action ``is in tune with the consensus of people of faith who are tired of being marginalized in an increasingly secular society.″

The case is Freedom From Religion Foundation vs. Colorado, 95-527.

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