Magna Carta Satisfies ACLU

Article excerpt

A decision by a North Carolina county courthouse to add copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta to its display of the Ten Commandments has placated the local branch of the ACLU.

In its most recent attempt to purge public buildings of religious messages, the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union sued Wilkes County in April, demanding commissioners remove six copies of the Ten Commandments posted around the courthouse.

The organization claimed posting the documents was unconstitutional. "They were injecting religion into government operations," said Deborah Ross, executive and legal director of the state's branch.

But the addition of the historical writings has assuaged the ACLU.

"After seeing the display, we are amenable to trying to reach some sort of compromise," Miss Ross said.

The county followed a pattern first used when the ACLU objected to the display of Nativity scenes on courthouse grounds.

In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of Pawtucket, R.I., did not violate the First Amendment by including a creche in a winter holiday display. "Total separation is not possible in an absolute sense," the decision said. "Some relationship between government and religious organizations is inevitable. …