in 2000, James DeWeese, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, put up a special display of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. He also put a Bill of Rights poster on another wall, but everyone knew what he was doing. He wanted to promote Christianity while in his government role and get away with it. A lawsuit against him was eventually successful — a judge ruled against him and an appeals court agreed — and the displays came down.
Then he tried again.
This time, in 2006, he put up a new display called “Philosophies of Law in Conflict.” This was the Ten Commandments… next to a list of Secular Humanist principles. The goal was to show everyone why Christianity was so much better than those godless heathens.
Once again, a court said that was illegal and an Appeals court affirmed it. DeWeese was told to cover up the poster or take it down. He covered it up with a dark cloth before attaching a sign to it that read, “CENSORED.” He also appealed the Supreme Court, but they refused to hear the case. (Writing an amicus brief for DeWeese’s side? That paragon of Christian virtue Roy Moore, who got in similar trouble for installing a Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama State Courthouse years earlier.)
During all of this, DeWeese maintained that he was just putting up posters representing different influences on the law. It’s the same argument some legislators use when putting up Ten Commandments monuments. They know that they’ll get away with it as long as they surround it with other displays representing law throughout history. But these judges weren’t buying that excuse:
Defendant’s stated purpose for hanging the poster is “to express [his] views about two warring legal philosophies that motivate behavior and the consequences that [he] ha[s] personally witnessed in [his] 18 years as a trial judge of moving to a moral relativist philosophy and abandoning a moral absolutist legal philosophy.” (R. 17, Def. Opp’n to Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A, ¶ 2.) It is questionable whether Defendant has articulated a facially secular purpose. However, assuming for the sake of argument that Defendant has stated a facially secular purpose, and giving that stated purpose its due deference, the history of Defendant’s actions demonstrates that any purported secular purpose is a sham.
Why bring all this up now? The 71-year-old DeWeese recently announced his retirement after nearly 30 years on the bench, and he made an interesting remark about the infamous displays…
DeWeese said he has no regrets about the ongoing battle, which started in 2000 and ended in 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the judge’s case.
He said, if anything, the drama helped bring attention to the Ten Commandments. Many people throughout the area posted signs supporting DeWeese.
“They (ACLU members) intended to put me in my place but instead ended up spreading the word of God,” he said with a smile.
“When it comes to people that come through the criminal justice system, the thing that makes the biggest change in life, it’s when they come to faith in Christ,” he said. “If you change people’s hearts, you can change their behavior.”
Oh, hey, look at that. His goal was always to convert people in his courtroom. Who could’ve possibly known that? (Besides everyone.) He put up the Ten Commandments, then told a lie about why he wanted the display up. Must be that Christian morality we keep hearing about…
At least he’ll be off the bench soon. Good riddance. We don’t need theocrats on the bench. We just need sensible people who won’t turn their courtrooms into a makeshift church.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)