Local court takes no action on 10 Commandments monument

The markers engraved with the Ten Commandments would be placed outside the doors of the courthouse. (Photo by John Carroll)
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HAMILTON, Texas (KWTX) Commissioners in Hamilton County on Tuesday took no action on a question regarding construction of a 10 Commandments monument proposed for the courthouse lawn.

“The item was on the agenda but the court took no action,” Hamilton County Judge W. Mark Tynes said Wednesday by telephone from is Hamilton office.

Tynes explained the item will be on each court agenda through September and “no action will be taken until the first meeting of October,” Tynes said.

County commissioners are considering a resident’s offer to donate stone markers engraved with the 10 Commandments that would be placed outside the courthouse doors, but not everyone is happy about the proposal.

Many county residents have expressed support for the idea.
"I have no problem bringing it before the court and the will of the people in my opinion will be served," Tynes said.

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.

"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 said.

If the county does go ahead with the monuments, the issue could 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,” Yates said.

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."

Tynes said the only way the court could act on the issue before October is if the citizen who offered the monument to take his offer back.