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Mayor Surprised By Court Ruling On Ten Commandments Monument

June 23, 1987

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) _ A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit attempting to force the city to remove a monument bearing the Ten Commandments from a city park, and Mayor Patrick Zielke said Tuesday he was surprised but pleased.

″Previous comments didn’t sound positive for our case,″ Zielke said.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Monday in Madison that the Freedom from Religion Foundation lacked standing to sue the city of La Crosse to remove the monument.

The 4-foot-high stone slab was presented to the city by the Eagles Club in 1965 in commemoration of young people who helped fight a flood.

Phyllis Grams, 71, of La Crosse, and the foundation, headed by Anne Gaylor and her daughter Laurie, both of Madison, charged the marker violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

But Crabb, who presided over a trial in March, did not rule on the constitutional questions, although she previously had indicated she probably would rule in favor of the foundation.

Instead, Crabb concentrated on right of the plaintiffs to file the suit.

Lawyer Richard Jacobson, representing the foundation, the Gaylors and Grams, said he expects to appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit in Chicago, and will argue that Grams and the foundation are legitimate plaintiffs.

Jacobson said the main issue will be whether Grams, ″as a non-adherent″ to the religious beliefs expressed on the marker, has been ″sufficiently harmed″ by its presence.

″She (Grams) was offended and affronted and rebuked in her beliefs about religion,″ Jacobson said. ″She said that in the trial, and that should be sufficient to show standings.″

City Attorney Patrick Houlihan said the city’s acceptance of the monument for the park was not an attempt to ″establish some kind of religion.″

He said the Ten Commandments, although a significant statement in Judeo- Christian religious philosophy, also forms the basis for law in the United States and many other democratic countries.

″It is part of our culture,″ he said.

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