"Thou Shalt Not Post Commandments"

May 18, 2011

Last week a paper copy of the Ten Commandments once again found its way to a place of prominence: the front door of the Shelby County Courthouse. The 8-by-11-inch copy was taped to the inside of the door, next to the sign banning food and drink.

Circuit Court Clerk Lowry Miller, who took down a framed copy of the document after Shelby County resident Linda Allewalt took issue with it being posted in the driver’s license office, said he had seen the copy on the front door of the courthouse but didn’t know who put it there.

“I’ve been on vacation, so I don’t know how long it was there,” he said.

A reporter snapped a photograph of the Ten Commandments on the door Friday.

County Attorney Hart Megibben said he also had seen the copy on the door and said it was the responsibility of the county judge-executive’s office to make sure it was taken down.

“Each department head is in charge of their own office, and as far as it’s anyone’s duty to police the common area, the executive branch would be in charge of that,” he said. “Whenever something is wrong there, the judge’s office attempts to remedy it. To me, something like that would almost be like graffiti.”

County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said Tuesday he was not aware the copy was on the door but would check on it at once, and if it was, it would come down.

“I’ll call maintenance over there, and tell them to take it down if it’s still up,” he said.

County Clerk Sue Carol Perry said she thinks the person who posted it was an employee at the courthouse.

“I am sure it was somebody over there, because when that story came out, I had more than one person from over there call and say, ‘Good for you,’” she said.

Perry is referring to an article that appeared in The Sentinel-NewsApril 22 about the fact that she had not yet taken down her framed copy of the Ten Commandments that hung in her office, posted where customers could

see it.

“Of course, I’ve taken mine down now,” she said. “I had intended to put up a poster in its place saying, former home of the Ten Commandments, removed because of one person, but upon legal counsel, I found I could get sued,” she said. “Our insurance company would not cover me because it’s against the law, and I am law-abiding citizen.”

Megibben said that after Perry came to him for advice about whether to remove the copy from her office, he did some research on the topic.

“After consulting with KACo – they are the ones who would defend that type of lawsuit – they cited a case in McCreary County where they were sued awhile back,” he said, adding that the county lost the suit, which came about because a copy of the Ten Commandments was placed in the courthouse there.

“So, based upon that, I advised her to remove it,” he said.

Rothenburger said that nothing should be taped or affixed to the front door of the courthouse for any reason, but that people do it all the time.

“People put up stuff on the front door all the time, about sales or a fish fry or whatever,” he said.

As to who he thinks may have posted the copy, he said, there’s no telling.

“The thing is, there’s so much access to the courthouse, it could be anybody,” he said.

Megibben agreed that nothing should be posted on the door of the courthouse, because there is a bulletin board for the public to use for such purposes. He noted however, that the Ten Commandments could not be posted there, either.