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Federal appeals court rules sale of Ten Commandments monument parkland no violation of Establishment Clause

[JURIST] Overturning a lower court ruling, the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a split decision Monday that the sale to a private organization of land containing a Ten Commandments monument in a La Crosse Wisconsin public park did not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Circuit Judge Daniel A. Maion wrote:

The City also had a rather obvious secular motive for the sale - it wanted to eliminate its ownership in the Monument to preempt litigation accusing it of using the Monument to endorse a religious message by displaying it on public property. The Appellees claim that the reason is not secular because the City could have avoided the lawsuit by simply removing or allowing someone else to remove the Monument. They claim that by not removing it and by leaving it on what had been City property demonstrates that the City’s motive was not secular. But as we have stated above, Marshfield makes clear that in most cases, a government can remedy a potential Establishment Clause violation by selling the real property where the religious monument sits. While removal was an option, so also was the sale. By selling the Monument site to end a perceived endorsement, the City exercised an option that served a secular purpose.
Read the full text of the ruling here [PDF].

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