Ten commandments debate

Reporter: Drew Speier
New Media Producer: Amanda Lents

Do the ten commandments break a federal law in Henderson?

A high school boy scout wants the commandments displayed with other documents at the county courthouse. It's part of his eagle badge project.

A judge says posting the commandments violates the law. But Ian Gerard is not giving up.

The 15-year-old is so determined to see his project through and get his eagle scout badge, he and several classmates at Haven Christian Academy in Henderson, even though they're not on the agenda, are marching on fiscal court Tuesday.

Inside the Henderson County Courthouse is a display honoring the county's recipients of the medal of honor. But a Gerard noticed some things were missing.

Gerard says, "Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Ten Commandments, we thought that's what our country is based on. Those are the foundational documents."

Gerard is a senior at Haven Christian Academy, where the Ten Commandments are posted on classroom doors. He decided as a way to earn his eagle scout badge he would try to get those historical items displayed inside the courthouse.

He was successful with everything but the Ten Commandments.

Gerard says, "They're worried about someone being upset about having the
Ten Commandments in there and suing the county."

Judge Executive Sandy Watkins says that's not the reason at all. He told 14 News he's not against the Ten Commandments in any way and added it's illegal to hang them in courthouse hallways. It's a violation of federal law.

Gerard says that's only if religion or politics are behind it, "It's not about any single religion so as long as our intent is not to back a single religion or political agenda we should be fine."

So the fight rages on. Gerard now has the backing of two law firms that agree it's a legal issue. They also say they will pay for any lawsuit the county may face.

Gerard now wants the judge to reconsider and put his request to a vote. He's already got his teachers vote, win or lose.

Veronica Hatfield, teacher at Haven Christian Academy, says. "It's extremely admirable and he stands out because he has a focus on what his firm convictions are. I don't think he's doing it just for a grade or a badge. I think it's something deeper. I think it's a commitment in him."

Gerard says, "We're just taking a historical and educational display on the foundations of our government to leave out one of those documents would be trying to rewrite history in my opinion."

In June of 2005 the US Supreme Court returned a split decision on displaying the Ten Commandments in and near courthouses. They ruled in favor of an outdoor display in Austin, Texas and in Kentucky ruled against displaying them on the walls of two commonwealth courthouses.

That Kentucky case is what Judge Watkins is referring to and which he says makes it illegal to do so in Henderson County. 14 News will be in fiscal court Tuesday and we'll follow up on what happened.