By Michael Davis
Acknowledging it may open Henry County up to an onslaught of legal challenges, the board of commissioners voted Tuesday to display a copy of the Ten Commandments in the Henry County Courthouse.
The copy, a framed display donated by the Henry County chapter of the League of the South, will be displayed along with historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights being moved from the old county courthouse to the new annex.
"I think that is excellent," said the Rev. Stellita Fears, who chairs the Henry County Democratic Party, when she heard about the vote. "The more they take away the word of God from out of our nation, the more calamity we see befall the United States. We have to have fear of something greater than ourselves."
The League of the South's Ray McBerry said the group's intention is to petition county commissions across the state to display the Ten Commandments in an attempt to dissuade opposition from launching court battles on multiple fronts.
McBerry is a McDonough resident and chairs the Georgia branch of League of the South.
"This is only the beginning of what we're going to do," he told the board.
The public display of the commandments has been embroiled in court battles across the country, leading to last year's removal of an Alabama Supreme Court Judge. Chief Justice Roy Moore had placed a huge granite monument displaying the commandments in the rotunda of state judicial building.
Barrow County commissioners are still involved in a fight that began last year to keep the display in their own courthouse.
The county faces a legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and a private group, Ten Commandments Georgia, was set up to help pay the legal expenses of the county in fighting the case.
The ACLU, on behalf of a John Doe, claimed that the display was, "unavoidable and unwelcome exposure to the Ten Commandments "
Barrow County operations director Keith Lee said the display has not been taken down and the case will soon go to court.
But Henry County commissioners largely said they were not afraid of drawing a legal challenge to Tuesday's decision.
"I'm really not intimidated by lawsuits," said District IV Commissioner Gerry Adams. "That's why we have lawyers."
District I Commissioner Warren Holder, running unopposed for reelection this year, said the vote could constitute a violation of commissioners' oath of office, but supported the display anyway.
At the beginning of this year's legislative session, one lawmaker put small, framed copies of the commandments on all state House members' desks.
McBerry said there was no coincidence in the timing of his proposal to Henry County commissioners two weeks to the day of the July 20 primary election.
"This is a very important time for this to come up with the primary election in two weeks. It gives voters a chance to see who is one of us and who isn't one of us," McBerry said.
Henry County Commission Chairman Leland Maddox said there is no time frame for putting the display up but said he would make sure its done as soon as possible.
"I believe in those principles and if the other (commissioners) don't, shame on them," he said.