Olney resident proposes new Ten Commandments display

7/14/2005 6:05:50 AM

Looking for an alternative to the recently removed Ten Commandments display at the Richland County Courthouse, Olney resident Margaret Czemski approached the Richland County Board during its meeting Tuesday night with an idea to introduce something different.

The Ten Commandments were removed from the courthouse June 27 following a Supreme Court ruling that prohibits certain displays from courthouses and government property.

"I realize they left a back door open," Czemski said of the ruling.

The justices ruled that some displays are permissible if they're portrayed neutrally in order to honor the nation's legal history. The court declined to prohibit all displays in court buildings or on government property.

Czemski said she would like to have a display of six ancient codes of law that show law's origins and how it has developed over time.

The laws would include the Code of the Assyrians, Hammurabi's Code, Laws of Solon from ancient Greece, the Twelve Tablets of Rome, the Magna Carta and the Jewish version of the Ten Commandments.

A display case would be built and placed in the courthouse lobby.

Czemski, a former history teacher, said she researched the codes of law on the Internet. She said the courthouse is involved with law every day and feels some people might be interested in how laws have developed and from where they originated.

The display would not include any pictures.

Czemski's idea for the display also comes from the fact that she wants to give something back to Olney resident Stella Ready, who donated the Ten Commandments display.

"I think that Mrs. Stella Ready has contributed a great deal to our community," she said.

Ready's work to raise awareness of veterans and her volunteer efforts at the veterans hospital in Marion are things Czemski feels should be applauded.

She said her father was a patient at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia, Mo. for three years before he died.

"And I know how important the volunteers are to patients," she said.

State's Attorney David Hyde asked the board if it could go into executive session to discuss possible litigation.

The board entered into executive session for less than 10 minutes.

When the board came back into open session, it approved having Hyde prepare a written report of the impact of re-placing the Ten Commandments on courthouse property and his interpretation of the Supreme Court's decision.

"We appreciate all of your efforts," Chairman Dottie DiCiro told Czemski after the vote.

The board will not make a decision on the issue until Hyde can present his report.

DiCiro said there are many people in the community who support having the Ten Commandments put back up in the courthouse, but at this time she said she does not want to put the county at risk for a major lawsuit.

(All votes are unanimous unless indicated otherwise. Board members include Chairman Dottie DiCiro, Greg Amerman, Bill Clow Jr., Dennis Graves, Melinda Hunt, Leo Ledeker and Dr. Jerry Ritchey.)