.- District of Columbia officials announced Monday that a sculpture of the Ten Commandments, which was erected on private property across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court, does not need a permit after all. This morning, religious leaders tied to the monument expressed their satisfaction over what they are calling a victory for religious liberty.
Officials with the D.C. Department of Transportation had said in a June 2nd letter, that the evangelical Christian group Faith and Action did not have permission to erect the three-foot, 850-pound granite sculpture and threatened the group with fines of $300 per day.
In spite of the threat, Faith and Action president, Rev. Robert Schenck, organized an official unveiling of the sculpture on June 3rd. He contended that his group, which promotes public displays of the Ten Commandments, did not need a permit and that it was being singled out because of the display's religious nature.
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Lars Etzkorn, associate director of the office of public space management administration at the Transportation Department, sent a letter to the group, rescinding the earlier warning in view of the First Amendment.
Rev. Schenck said in a press release this morning, "We were shocked at how quickly the DC Government agreed to our position on our Ten Commandments display.”
The Reverend Patrick J. Mahoney, of the Christian Defense Coalition, said that the battle over the monument has significance in regards to the larger issue of religious liberty. “We hope our refusal to remove the Ten Commandments, in spite of the threat of thousands of dollars in fines and loss of property, will serve as clear reminder that we must resist religious bigotry and discrimination on every level,” Rev. Mahoney said, “This is a victory not only for the faith community but for all Americans who cherish free speech and religious liberty."