ACLU of Kentucky and McQueary v. Mercer County, Kentucky
ACLU of Kentucky, Meredith and Harper v. Grayson County, Kentucky
ACLU of Kentucky, Wilson and Tunnell v. Garrard County, Kentucky
United States Court of Appeals / United States District Court
These four lawsuits are the second set of challenges to Ten Commandments postings in county government buildings (four courthouses and one public hospital). On behalf of ACLU of Kentucky members and local citizens, we argued that the postings violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause. The context of the individual postings initially ranged from stand-alone to “historical documents” displays like those enjoined in the first set of cases. After we filed suit, each government modified its display to contain the same set of “historical documents.” The Mercer, Garrard, and Rowan cases originated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and the Grayson County case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District.
In the Western District, U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley agreed with Judge Coffman and granted a preliminary injunction requiring removal of the Grayson County display. The case was then stayed (held in abeyance) pending the outcome of the Supreme Court decision in McCreary and Pulaski counties.
In the Eastern District, U.S. District Judge Karl Forester disagreed with Judge Coffman about the displays’ constitutionality and refused to require the removal of the Rowan and Garrard County displays while the cases are pending. The Garrard and Rowan County cases were stayed in the Eastern District pending the outcome of the Supreme Court decision in McCreary and Pulaski counties.
Judge Forester also granted summary judgment in favor of the government in the Mercer County case. We appealed that decision to the Sixth Circuit and lost. The panel, by a 2-1 vote, held that — absent proof of an impermissible religious purpose — the “Foundations” display was not unconstitutional.
The other three cases — Rowan and Garrard County before Judge Forrester, Grayson County before Judge McKinley — now are proceeding. In each, we are attempting to prove that the county’s real motive for the display is religious, not historical.