Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 4, 2013

W.Va. courthouse commandments monument questioned

CHARLESTON — The American Civil Liberties Union is questioning the constitutionality of a monument of the Ten Commandments installed on the Wyoming County Courthouse lawn.

ACLU-West Virginia chapter staff attorney Sarah Rogers tells the Charleston Gazette ( ) that government property is being used to advocate one religion over another.

“Pro-religious monuments on the grounds of courthouses sends a message to minorities of faith or nonbelievers that they are second-class citizens,” she said. “It undermines civil liberties.”

Rogers said she planned to look into the matter.

“We advocate that these are religious beliefs that should be left to each individual person to make,” she said.

The monument was paid for and installed by a group of churches and business leaders, Wyoming County Commission President Jason Mullins said.

He said the group didn’t seek the county’s permission to install the monument. But commissioners who saw the monument being installed didn’t object to it.

Mullins says the group wanted to address the county’s drug problem and inspire others.

“Our forefathers were adamant about the separation of church of state,” he told the newspaper, “but I don’t think they ever intended for the elimination of church from state.”

Mullins, who described himself as religious, said people could be offended by the monument but he does not understand why. He said the Ten Commandments are historical documents.

“It happened. It’s real,” he said. “It’s information that is as much fact as any current history books.”

Mullins said there was no intention to force religion on anyone. He says the group wanted to address the county’s drug problem and to inspire others.

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