published Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Meigs Courthouse is home to Ten Commandments display

Newly framed prints of U.S. historical documents, including the Ten Commandments, hang in the Meigs County Courthouse on Friday. The framed documents were hung Friday morning by County Mayor R. Garland Lankford.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Newly framed prints of U.S. historical documents, including the Ten Commandments, hang in the Meigs County Courthouse on Friday. The framed documents were hung Friday morning by County Mayor R. Garland Lankford. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press


Hamilton County wound up in a legal battle when it posted the Ten Commandments in the county courthouse shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union and county residents filed suit to have them removed, and a federal judge agreed in May 2002 that the plaques violated the constitutional separation of church and state. The judge ordered the commandments removed and ordered the county to pay the ACLU’s legal fees.

Source: Newspaper archives

A Meigs County woman who helped convince county commissioners to display the Ten Commandments in the courthouse said she is proud of local leaders for their decision.

“It’s putting God back where He deserves,” said 43-year-old Kim Duckett, a deputy county clerk. “The people want it.”

On Friday, the Meigs County Courthouse became home to a display of the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Commissioners approved a resolution to post the display last month.

“We accepted the plaque and said that we’d hang it in our halls here at the courthouse,” County Mayor Garland Lankford said.

The moment was emotional for everyone present, Lankford said.

“When we accepted it the eyes got pretty wet, including mine,” he said.

There were no tears among officials with the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, however.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization’s senior policy analyst, Rob Boston, said he applauds the display of the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence and noted he’d add the Constitution, too.

“The Ten Commandments is the odd document out in that collection,” he said.

“It’s mostly religious and, unlike the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and Constitution, the Ten Commandments isn’t part of the basis of our government.

“There are a lot of people who disagree with that,” he admitted.

Still, Boston said, the fact that most of the people in a community want to post a religious document in a government building doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

“The majority does not always rule simply because it’s a majority. What the majority wants must align with the Constitution. If this display is unconstitutional, then it won’t matter if the majority wants it, it will still have to be taken down,” he said.

Lankford said he doesn’t anticipate a legal challenge but admits it’s a possibility.

“There was not a single opponent at last night’s meeting,” he said. “Our people will be devastated if somebody challenges those being posted on the wall of this courthouse.”

Lankford said Duckett and other supporters asked commissioners last month to pass a resolution for the display. They were accompanied by Rhea County resident June Griffin, who has spearheaded similar efforts across the state.

The group submitted a petition with 1,800 signatures, he said. Meigs County’s population is 11,753.

On Thursday night, the group returned with the documents framed and ready to display, he said.

“They said it was a gift to Meigs County,” he said. “Our people overwhelmingly support it. I would think this Bible Belt community is near 100 percent for it, if not 100 percent,” he said.

He said if the U.S. Supreme Court building can sport the religious document, why not the Meigs County Courthouse?

Griffin, who has campaigned for the Commandments to be publicly posted across the state since 1997, said she tallies the Meigs County decision as a victory.

“We the people of Tennessee have spoken through our county commissions that we have a right within the county jurisdiction or the state’s jurisdiction to execute the will of the people,” she said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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memphisexile said...

This is stupid. Meigs county is going to get sued, they are going to lose and they will rack up some hefty legal bills in the process. Instead of wasting time finding ways to get their county sued, maybe the county employees should volunteer their extra time doing something else more productive. Also, any time that fool June Griffin is backing what you are doing, it is time to reevaluate.

April 16, 2011 at 1:11 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Non-Christians better stay closeted in Miegs county-it's clear who has the power and what they think of anyone who believes differently.

April 16, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.
GreenKepi said...

Wildman...I agree that the posting of the 10 Commandments are somewhat naïve; however, that’s the leaders and people in Meigs County’s business. You have no business with unleashing your ‘tirade’.

However, what you just did…usually goes with the turf. Your name calling is a result from a weak position and poor argument. To deflect attention you have just reverted to the tired old tradition of ‘name calling’.

No reasonable, self respecting person wants to be a “a bunch of backwoods, brainwashed, inbred meth-heads” so the strategy is intimidate the Meigs County people into silence and cheer for them being sued.

The 10 Statements or Words were not given to Christians (where are the other 603 Commandments?) and most all Meigs Countians never keep the Sabbath Day Holy.

However, all that aside…don’t get your underwear in a wad…so much…calm down!

April 16, 2011 at 8:55 a.m.
holdout said...

I wonder if they would back my attempt to have some verses of the Dao De Jing posted as well?

April 16, 2011 at 8:59 a.m.
WhitesCreek said...

What a tiresome exercise in narrowness of thought and education. I wonder of these folks know that the Qur'an has the same commandments? In fact they are written with much clearer explanations without having three different somewhat contradictory versions as does the Christian bible.

April 16, 2011 at 9:02 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

Couldn't we all just agree to post the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights? That would mollify the "10ers" and satisfy the legal criteria.

Let's keep religious dictum out of the courtroom. Do our neighbors in Meigs County like following the lead of certain other countries, say, Afghanistan or Arabia?

April 16, 2011 at 10:52 a.m.
mella_yella said...

America experienced many of its most darkest and brutal periods in history during periods when it claimed to be at its most religious.

April 16, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Hey Wildman, chew on this...

“The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man, and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.”--Thomas Jefferson

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”--John Adams

“We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”--James Madison

The founding fathers may not have all been Christians, but they at least recognized the importance of Christian principles. I think that's what Meigs County is going for here. No one from there is demanding that all of their residents have to become Christians to live there. They have simply decided to hold their community to a higher standard, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, the founding fathers, as evidenced from the quotes above, definitely would not have had a problem with it.

April 16, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.
Leaf said...

These people know, or should know, that posting the ten commandments is unconstitutional. It's been proven many times in the courts.

For a judge or county council to go against precedent set in higher courts is to purposely chip away at the very Constitution that they are supposed to follow. Whatever judges and elected officials have allowed this, have broken their sworn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.

April 16, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.
eyesWIDEopen said...

Stewwie said... Hey Wildman, chew on this... “The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man, and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.”--Thomas Jefferson

Hey Stewwie: Thomas Jefferson also advised his students to QUESTION! "Question EVERYTHING, even your religion!"

April 16, 2011 at 2:11 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

If the Ten Commandments actually made sense as a moral guideline for how to live one's life, it might be a good idea to post them all over the place. But they are absurd and practically meaningless. Even the most devout Christian ignores almost all of them. Sure, it's bad to steal and to kill, but everyone covets, lies, makes gods and idols out of other things. And who actually obeys that commandment about the Sabbath? What a joke. Even when it comes to killing, Christians are some of the most gung-ho about going to war. Apparently they think that God didn't really mean that commandment if you become a soldier for the U.S. government, even when our wars are not for self-defense. If Christians must post something in public, how about this: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But that will never happen. They seem more intent on believing in a vindictive, jealous God who punishes than in a magnanimous, compassionate God who actually loves all of his/her children.

April 16, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

BTW...that same God who issued those commandments also calls for the death of anyone who works on the Sabbath and for the death of any kids who disobey their parents. Just sayin'....

April 16, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.
librul said...

Some Meigs County demographics:

As of the census of 2000, there were 11,086 people, 4,304 households, and 3,262 families residing in the county.

9.90% of households had a female householder with no husband present.

The racial makeup of the county was 97.65% White, 1.24% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.11% from other races. Looks like they celebrate racial diversity up there about as much as they do religious diversity.

The median income for a household in the county was $29,354, and the median income for a family was $34,114. Males had a median income of $29,521 versus $20,419 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,551.

About 15.80% of families and 18.30% of the population were BELOW THE POVERTY LINE, including 23.50% of those under age 18 and 14.60% of those age 65 or over.

One (1) incorporated town - Decatur.

Yes, the xtian god, much beloved by the poor (and I mean POOR) folk of Meigs County, has really heard their prayers and heaped blessings on them over the last two hundred years, huh - especially since they chased out those heathen Cherokees whose birthright it was.

I guess the real shame is that their elected officials are so bereft of any ideas of what their oaths of office say or what their government jobs entail that they would spend one minute of their time in such idiotic shenanigans.


April 16, 2011 at 2:45 p.m.
LibDem said...

(In the interest of full disclosure, I'm secular humanist.)

I'm ambivalent about these incursions. I agree that using the courthouse to promote a religion is wrong, but I can see no immediate harm here. Christians, by and large, ignore these rules and it's unlikely that anyone will feel compelled to convert after reading them. You can argue that this is a foot in the door and I'll admit that could result in future harm. My problem is the 'bully on the block' attitude. These people and their commissioners are saying that they can do this because they are the big guys in the county. I doubt they care about these rules, only placing their flag in the courthouse. They will shop at WalMart on Sunday, be served by workers in a restaurant on Sunday, and brag that they won.

April 16, 2011 at 3:34 p.m.
chet123 said...

Meigs county people are making a fool of themselves.....jewish...and muslim believe ten commandment....for christian...christ taught from the mound, plain ,river the BEATITUDE......Muslim,Jewish, separte from new testament

guess Meigs county Profess Christian are really Muslim LOL LOL LOL!!!! Church need to teach these People....Maybe the pastors are just that ignorant!!!!!!

April 16, 2011 at 3:48 p.m.
jchilds said...

People!! What ever happened to the right of FREE SPEECH!!

April 16, 2011 at 6:31 p.m.
HiDef said...

jchilds- Are you prepared to defend every religions right to free speech in the county courthouse? What if a Muslim group decided that they wanted to have a few excerpts from their Quran displayed? What about Buddhists, Wiccans etc...? It's a slippery slope which is why the courthouse should remain neutral.

Hopefully though somebody in Meigs County will have the guts to challenge this. The County will lose and it will face the same fate that Hamilton County faced years ago...

April 16, 2011 at 8:14 p.m.
Comedian said...

Sure let them have their spot also.America was founded on free speech and for being a melting pot.If that kook can go to soldiers funerals and it be called free speech let everyone have a shot.A big myth about Muslims is they do not believe in God.They believe in the same God that christians do as do the Jews.Now Jesus is a different story.You are right though the people of Meigs need to be prepared to give everyone their shot at the wall or get their tail sued off.....I looked at your comments an we agree on a large amount of ideas and I know my grammer is probably not great.Feel free to correct me and no offense will be taken.Take Care,JC

April 16, 2011 at 10:18 p.m.
chet123 said...

eyewideopen...get a load of this...christianity is a is not that cross you place on your please understand if you remove the word "Christ" you are left with the letter IAN(i ain't nothing) before you Start beating on your chest...understand its full context...and in the new testament...word as disciple and beleiver people of the way is how they identify each other and it was the unbeleiver who gave Originated the name Christian the word is mentioned only 2times in king james new testament(1peter 4:16 and act 26:28)

April 24, 2011 at 2:56 p.m.
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