Proposed courthouse Ten Commandments markers stir local controversy

The markers engraved with the Ten Commandments would be placed outside the doors of the...
The markers engraved with the Ten Commandments would be placed outside the doors of the courthouse. (Photo by John Carroll)(KWTX)
Published: Jul. 23, 2019 at 6:56 PM CDT
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Hamilton County commissioners are considering a resident’s offer to donate stone markers engraved with the Ten Commandments that would be placed outside the courthouse doors, but not everyone is happy about the proposal, although residents who attended the commissioners meeting Tuesday morning seemed to be mostly in favor of the proposal.

"I have no problem bringing it before the court and the will of the people in my opinion will be served," County Judge Mark Tynes said.

"There have been those who waved the Constitution at me and I said, 'OK wonderful, show me in the Constitution where what we are doing is against the Constitution?’"

Hamilton lawyer Nancy Yates, however, takes issue with the proposal.

"By putting this plaque up to the Ten Commandments they're making the choice to support a particular voice as opposed to the Hindu voice or the Buddhist voice or the Islamic voice."

Yates was one of just four people who expressed opposition to the proposal during Tuesday’s meeting.

"My problem is it is a violation of the Establishment Clause under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that the state is not going to promote one religion over another."

Yates says she believes if the county does go ahead with the monuments, the issue will end up in court.

"I think that leads directly to litigation that's already occurred throughout the United States and that litigation costs will be detrimental to our county."

Baylor University Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies Francis Beckwith says given the political climate in the U.S. today, the county might win the fight.

"In terms of the divisiveness in our culture now it's probably not a very good move, but in terms of victories in the courts they probably stand a better chance now than they did maybe a decade ago."

"I think actually this is going to be a very tough case but I don't think it's a slam dunk on either side," Beckwith said.

Commissioners will put the proposal on the agenda for discussion next month and could vote soon after on whether to approve the proposal.