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The Ten Commandments Challenged in 8th Circuit
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On Friday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Red River Freethinkers, a group of atheists and agnostics, had the right to sue the city of Fargo in North Dakota for placing a granite marker with the Ten Commandments on public property. The Freethinkers sued the city of Fargo, first in 2002, but the district court dismissed the case as the monument to the Ten Commandments was donated by a private group and had a secular purpose as part of an urban renewal project. However, the Freethinkers remained undeterred in their agenda to remove the Ten Commandments.

Instead of appealing the decision of the district court, the Freethinkers took a smart strategy and asked the city to erect a sister monument stating that the United States of America was not founded on the Christian religion. The city commission tried to work out of the mess by passing a new ordinance that prevented the erection of any further monuments without disturbing what was already there on the civic plaza. They walked into the trap.

The Freethinkers sued this time accusing the city of Fargo of adopting religious motives and violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause which prevents government from supporting any particular religion over another.


The district court again dismissed the case and found that the Ten Commandments was not causing any harm to the Freethinkers. However, on Friday, the 8th Circuit disagreed. The 8th Circuit held: The City’s display of the Ten Commandments monument has continued now for fifty years, with no end in sight. Those members have encountered the monument, causing them ‘to feel isolated and unwelcome in the city.'”

However, at least one judge dissented from the majority decision and opined that while the Freethinkers had a right to sue, there was no evidence that the city commissioners had a religious motivation.

The case would now be heard by the district court.

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The case is Red River Freethinkers v. City of Fargo, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, No. 10-3214.



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