Ten Commandments on display at Rutherford Co. sheriff's office - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Ten Commandments on display at sheriff's office causing controversy

Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold

In the lobby of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department, 940 New Salem Hwy. in Murfreesboro, alongside a copy of the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence hangs the Ten Commandments.

Rutherford County resident Linda Smith sees nothing wrong with that.

"We all have freedom to do and speak and say what we want, and believe whatever we want," Smith said. "It's not like someone is slapping you in the face telling you that you have to believe it; it's just there for you to read if you feel the need."

Despite a court ruling eight years ago that forced the Ten Commandments from being in the Rutherford County Courthouse, Sheriff Robert Arnold has it on display anyway in the lobby.

The Sheriff was unavailable for an interview today, but he told our news partners at The Daily News Journal that the federal court ruling was handed down before he took office.

"In God We Trust' is on every single dollar bill," Arnold said. "These were the founding principles of this country."

"My job is to uphold the laws. I'm not making anybody do anything. That's what principles we're founded upon," the sheriff added.

The framed documents were donated in 2012 by Rhea County resident and activist June Griffin and were posted in the lobby shortly after.

Steve Cates was one of the plaintiffs who sued the county and won to have the Commandments removed from the county court house.

"I just don't understand it needs to be rehashed," Cates said. "It was settled several years ago and the county lost several hundred thousand dollars on a case they could not win; I just don't get it."

Cates said he's a Christian, but doesn't feel the Commandments should be forced on anyone in public places.

"It seems to me that on public property with public funds, that's something that should be left for churches, families, synagogues and mosques and temples," Cates said.

For now the sheriff has no plans to take the commandments down.

"People of all faiths, as well as non-believers, should feel like they are being treated equally and fairly while in their local government buildings, especially in the sheriff's office which houses the jail," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU-TN. "Rather than promoting a particular religious doctrine, the government must remain neutral so that religious freedom can flourish."

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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