HOUSTON – The court battle over a Bible at a monument outside a government building may not be over yet.
The Harris County attorney’s office is studying whether it should seek court permission to continue displaying the Bible near the Civil Courts Building while appealing a judge’s order to remove it.
A federal judge earlier this week gave the county 10 days to remove the Bible from the monument. Ruling that the display violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, Judge Sim Lake ordered the county to pay $41,000 in court costs and attorneys fees in the lawsuit that contended the display of the Bible on county property was unconstitutional.
County Attorney Mike Stafford said even if a stay of Lake’s order is not sought, the county will appeal his decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
“We don’t believe the monument with the Bible is a violation of the Constitution,” he told the Houston Chronicle in Thursday’s editions. “We expect that position to prevail.”
The open Bible is in a glass-topped case atop a 4-foot stone monument about 20 feet from the courts building’s entrance. Kay Staley, a real estate broker and attorney, sued the county last August after witnessing the controversy in Alabama surrounding a judge’s refusal to remove a monument bearing the Ten Commandments from that state’s judicial building.
The Houston monument was erected by Star of Hope Mission in 1956 to honor philanthropist William S. Mosher, a major donor to the mission. The display, Lake ruled, violates the First Amendment establishment clause that prohibits government from promoting or inhibiting religion.
Staley’s lawyer, Randall Kallinen, said stays pending appeals typically are granted only if a losing side would suffer irreparable harm if a court order were enforced.
Stafford said the county will notify Star of Hope that it must remove the Bible unless a stay is granted. Mission officials said they will not defy the court order.
Information from: Houston Chronicle