After several months of contentious debate, the Manhattan, Kan., City Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday night to remove a Ten Commandments stone monolith from the grounds of the City Hall.
The nearly six-foot-tall granite tablet was originally placed in front of the building in 1958. In November, after a building renovation, the city's commissioners voted to turn the monument sideways so as to make the display less prominent.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit against the City of Manhattan on April 9th. The Baker v. City of Manhattan suit was filed after six months of attempts by AU Litigation Counsel Ayesha Khan to inform city officials of the unconstitutionality of government endorsement of a specific religious text.
The suit was brought on behalf of seven Manhattan residents of various religious and non-religious persuasions. The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri joined Americans United in the suit.
"I am pleased the city council has decided to follow the dictates of the First Amendment," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United.
"Far too often, some people try to frame this issue as either support for the Commandments or hostility toward them," Lynn added. "That might make for effective Religious Right rhetoric, but this overly simplistic approach misses the point. You can appreciate and agree with the Ten Commandments without asking the government endorse them."
The commission agreed to return the monument to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the group that originally donated the Commandments display. A nearby Christian college volunteered to display the Decalogue on its campus.
"That's exactly where the display should have been all along," Lynn concluded.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.