County set to post Ten Commandments

Friday, March 23, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

The Ten Commandments will be posted at the Marshall County Courthouse Annex and two walls at the Sheriff's Department this spring if county commissioners adopt a resolution for that purpose on Monday.

Sheriff Norman Dalton got the idea to post the Ten Commandments in February while listening to June Griffin of Dayton, Tenn., the head or an organization that advocates posting that part of the Bible in context with the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

"You're not allowed to display the Ten Commandments only," Dalton said, explaining that when that part of the Old Testament is displayed with two historic American documents, then the presentation, in context, is historic and not necessarily religious.

In that way, there is a legal right to display the documents, and the sheriff aims to do so.

Dalton wants all three displayed on the wall behind where he sits at his office. Chief Deputy Billy Lamb became aware of the situation and wants the display in the front lobby of the department's office on First Avenue North.

Now, County Commissioner Richard Hill Jr. has presented a resolution for consideration at the 6 p.m. County Commission meeting so that those proposals and a third be accommodated. The third location is suggested by Hill and it's to be at the front lobby of the Courthouse Annex at Commerce Street and First Avenue.

That ground floor lobby is also where three busts of Marshall County men are displayed to honor them for their ultimate sacrifice in the wars waged in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On the second floor of the Annex, there's another lobby area. It's where a Christmas tree has been displayed in December.

As written, the resolution included in the commissioners' agenda package lists the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The resolution does not mention the Declaration of Independence, a shorter document that's usually included in the display provided by Griffin.

"A one-time donation of $100 [is] to be made to June Griffin for the display case and documents "of the above stated items," according to the resolution as submitted.

It's not the first time for commissioners here to take steps toward posting the Ten Commandments, although the specific wording of a November 2001 resolution does not go so far as to have the religious document posted.

According to the 2001 resolution, the commissioners, "in consideration of our great Biblical history ... hereby acknowledge the importance of the Ten Commandments of Almighty God and wish to go on record in support of this Magnificent Document and state that we will defend our right to its display to the limit of our ability, against all enemies, domestic and foreign, public and private."

The resolution concludes with a request to the Lord: "In the enacting of this resolution, we hereby petition the God of Heaven to preserve the peace which he has so graciously extended to us by our ancient acknowledgement of the Ten Commandments and beg His continued protection and alleviation of ills which come to those who forget Him and His Law."

Commission Chairman Tom Sumners, County Clerk Daphne Fagan and County Executive Terry Wallace signed the resolution brought by a Commissioner James Richardson, recommended by Commissioner Ruth Peacock and seconded by Commissioner Nona Hill-Gold.

Dalton is aware of controversy elsewhere over government display of a religious document alone, but having heard Griffin, he's taking his request for support to the Law Enforcement Committee at 6 tonight. The panel meets at the sheriff's department. The county budget committee was to consider it last night.

Griffin is to bring the framed display of the three documents to the County Commission meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

"She doesn't charge anything for the documents, but she does accept donations," said Dalton who met Griffin during the Sheriff's Association meeting Feb. 2-3 in Nashville where she presented another sheriff with the documents.

Hill became the sponsor of the resolution because he was in Dalton's office, and was told about the sheriff's plan. Hill "got to checking" and found the 2001 commission's "vote to put the Ten Commandments in ....pick up a copy of the Marshall County Tribune for the rest of this current story