Government funds are paying legal fees across the country in losing court cases over the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
Taxpayers may have to pony up as much as $90,000 in legal fees in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Hamilton County, Tenn., despite the assurance from a county commissioner that no tax money would be used to defend the decision to place the Ten Commandments in county buildings.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
After a federal court ruled that the Chattanooga-area county had violated the U. S. Constitution, the county received a bill for more than $50,000 from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which had sued the county.
Losing parties are often made to pay the winning party’s legal bills in civil suites.
Hamilton County also owes between $30,000 and $40,000 in outside attorney fees, according to Associated Press.
A private defense fund had been set up to defend the commissioners’ decision in order to avoid using taxpayer money. However, only $2,130 had been donated for the county’s legal bills.
A second Tennessee county may face legal bills as steep as Hamilton County. Rutherford County commissioners voted in March to post the Ten Commandments in the county courthouse, according to the Tennessee.
A federal judge ruled against the commission, saying that “It is difficult for the Court to reach any conclusion other than that the sole purpose of erecting the challenged display was for the advancement of a religious purpose.”
A third Tennessee county decided to keep the Ten Commandments posted in its public buildings. If a law suit is filed, the commissioners would consider what actions to take. A Bradley County commissioner said, “I know it costs taxpayers money to fight things like that [law suits],” according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
When Elkhart, Ind., lost its four-year battle to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments, it was required to pay over $60,000 in taxpayer money to the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.
Governed by the same court as Elkhart, Mishawaka gave up its effort to retain a Ten Commandment’s monument in front of city hall. A city attorney said, “I think our goal is to not have the huge attorney fees Elkhart ran up.”
Mishawaka’s legal fees totaled over $7,000.
A federal judged ordered the city of Plattsmouth, Neb., to pay the ACLU of Nebraska over $14,000 in attorney fees in its losing battle to keep a monument of the Commandments in a city park. The city asked the Pat Robertson-affiliated American Center for Law and Justice to collect donations for its legal costs. The case is under appeal.
The mayor of La Crosse, Wis., recommended that the city sell park property where a monument of the Ten Commandments stands as a way to avoid a costly lawsuit.
In early June, Northwest Florida Daily News reported that the Florida Panhandle city council of Crestview defeated a motion to post the Ten Commandments. Mayor George Whitehurst said the city did not have the funds for a lawsuit.
“Most people know where the commandments are in the Bible and churches,” he said. “Anyone into knowing about them knows where to find them.”