The American Humanist Association (AHA) applauded the decision of an Ohio appeals court to remove a Ten Commandments display from the courtroom of an Ohio state judge. The poster display, which appeared in the courtroom of Judge James DeWeese, juxtaposed the “moral absolutes” of the Ten Commandments with the “moral relativism” of humanist principles.
“By posting humanist principles in a negative way alongside the Ten Commandments, Judge DeWeese is clearly showing preferential treatment toward religion,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates for people who are good without a belief in god. “Whatever personal faith Judge DeWeese adheres to, the courtroom is a secular institution. This display has no place within anyone’s courtroom.”
Speckhardt continued, “To categorize religion as the ‘moral absolute’ and advertise it in a courtroom is absurd. Religious belief is no objective measure of morality, and certainly shouldn’t be portrayed as such within a court of law.”
In 2000 James DeWeese, a judge of the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, hung the Bill of Rights alongside a Ten Commandments poster in his courtroom. The ACLU later successfully sued to have the display removed. In 2008, the ACLU sued a second time after Judge DeWeese erected a display within his courtroom entitled “Philosophies of Law in Conflict.” The poster included a list of the Ten Commandments next to selective quotes from the Humanist Manifesto and humanists like John Dewey.
“The poster in this case is not merely a display of the Ten Commandments in Defendant’s courtroom,” wrote 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Eric Clay in the opinion, which went on to state, “The poster is an explicit endorsement of religion by Defendant in contravention of the Establishment Clause.”
“The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling reaffirms once again that the Establishment Clause prohibits public officials from posting religious documents, including the Ten Commandments, in public buildings as part of an effort to advance a religious agenda,” said Bill Burgess, attorney and legal coordinator of the American Humanist Association’s legal arm, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The court showed wisdom in seeing through an effort by the defendant to defend such practices by asserting an ostensibly secular purpose, such as a supposed historical, legal or philosophical lesson, when such purpose is simply a sham used to cloak a religious agenda. The Establishment Clause protects our courtrooms as a place of equal justice for all, religious and secular alike.”
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org ) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.