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Originally published June 27, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 27, 2005 at 5:01 PM

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Commandments ruling affects Everett case

U.S. Supreme Court rulings involving displays of the Ten Commandments look promising for the continued display of one such monument in Everett, says an attorney representing the city.

Times Snohomish County bureau

U.S. Supreme Court rulings involving displays of the Ten Commandments look promising for the continued display of one such monument in Everett, says an attorney representing the city.

It will be up to a federal judge to make the next ruling, however.

The Supreme Court rulings, issued today, allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed outside the Texas state capitol, but not inside Kentucky courthouses.

The issues in the Texas case most closely parallel those in the Everett case, said Stephen A. Smith, of Seattle's Preston, Gates & Ellis, the firm representing the city.

"I'm pleased, encouraged by the ruling in the Texas case,'' Smith said. "It's most like Everett.''

In the Texas case, the court ruled that display of a 6-foot granite monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, one of 17 historical displays on the 22-acre site, was a legitimate tribute to the country's legal and religious history. The Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the Ten Commandments structure to the state in 1961.

The Ten Commandments display in Everett is outside what is now the city police station and City Council chambers. It's been there since 1959, when it was donated by the Everett Fraternal Order of Eagles.

"This has rested passively on city property for more than four decades," said Smith.

The display was questioned in a lawsuit brought by Jesse Card, an Everett resident, who argued the monument violated provisions of the U.S. Constitution requiring a separation of church and state.

Neither Card nor his Washington, D.C., attorney, Ben Block, were available for comment.

The Supreme Court decisions were the first major rulings on Ten Commandments displays since 1980, when they were banned from being shown in public schools.

Smith said key provisions of the decisions involving the Everett display include the fact that the monument was donated to the city, and not intentionally purchased, and that it is situated on public grounds, but is not within a courthouse.

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Smith said U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik could ask for more argument from attorneys in the Everett case or rule on the basis of the Supreme Court decision without further hearings. Lasnik stayed his ruling in October, pending the Supreme Court decision.

Smith said Lasnik may make his decision within a year, but that ruling could be appealed.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or pwhitely@seattletimes.com

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