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Rep. Terry England: Commandments bill likely to be challenged

BETHLEHEM - A bill that would allow Georgia counties to display the Ten Commandments in courthouses alongside the Mayflower Compact and Declaration of Independence would almost certainly draw a lawsuit if passed, State Rep. Terry England said on a radio program set to air today.

England, who represents Barrow County, co-sponsored House Bill 941 with Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson. The bill seeks to allow displays of the Ten Commandments in county courthouses across the state, if flanked by the two other historic documents that England said are related to the Commandments.

"We've been thinking for several months of a way to get those documents hung in public buildings that would allow people to see and understand the relationship between historical documents and how they relate back to the Ten Commandments," he said.

The effort comes on the heels of a long battle in Barrow County to keep the Commandments hanging alone in the courthouse's breezeway. In July, the county settled a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of an anonymous resident, removing the display and paying $150,000 in legal fees.

Jody Hice, the founder of a group called Ten Commandments - Georgia Inc. that helped the county raise more than $200,000 to fight the ACLU, conducted the interview with England that will air on WIMO 1300 AM at 6 p.m.

If the bill passes, England said, the state attorney general will be required to defend counties who properly display all three documents if lawsuits are brought against them.

"It's sure to be challenged at some point," he said.

Hice, on the program, said that a public display of the Commandments had nothing to do with establishing religion and praised England for his efforts to pass the bill. A similar measure suggested in the House three years ago never made it out of committee, but England said he has been assured the bill, which was prefiled to gain an early following, will get an up-or-down vote. He said he was optimistic that it would pass the House, but unsure how it would fare in the Senate.

Despite high support in Barrow County, England said residents in other areas might not be as pleased with the idea of legalizing courthouse displays.

"I'm sure we'll see some folks who will oppose it," he said. "We've got folks who would stand up and oppose apple pie, motherhood and Chevrolets, all the things we think are so basic to America and Americana. Some people are just always 100 percent objectionable to it."