Religious Liberty Press Release

10.03.11

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Review Decision by Appeals Court Ordering Judge to Remove Religious Display

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a court decision against Richland County Common Pleas Court Judge James DeWeese, allowing a ruling by the lower federal appeals court to stand. The ACLU of Ohio filed suit against Judge DeWeese after he erected a religious display in a county courtroom. In February 2011, a three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed unanimously that the display was unconstitutional. This was the second time the ACLU had to sue Judge DeWeese over a religious display in his courtroom, and the second time the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a lower court’s finding that Judge DeWeese’s religious courtroom displays violated the Constitution.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision should be the final word on this case and hopefully puts an end to Judge DeWeese’s misguided attempts to inject religion into the courtroom,” said ACLU of Ohio Volunteer Attorney Mike Honohan. “After nearly a decade, and not a single court decision in his favor, it is time for Judge DeWeese to stop wasting taxpayer resources by using his court as a religious pulpit.”

The ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit against Judge James DeWeese in October 2008 after he installed a poster on the wall of the county courtroom with the Ten Commandments, a set of “humanist precepts,” and a statement on the value of each from DeWeese. In its lawsuit, the ACLU charged that the display was meant to unfairly promote DeWeese’s personal religious views using his position as a judge. The poster was only a modified version of the display DeWeese posted in 2002 that was also ruled unconstitutional.

“Judges should have the utmost respect for the U.S. Constitution, which they have been sworn to uphold. Unfortunately, Judge DeWeese’s actions show that he has been willing to circumvent the very spirit of our nation’s commitment to religious liberty, so long as it benefits his own personal crusade. The public should demand better of those who are charged with protecting the law,” concluded Honohan.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled previously against Judge DeWeese in 2002, finding that his display of the Ten Commandments on the courtroom wall was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his 2002 case as well.