Thanks to NRO’s "The Corner," I learned that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had issued this decision (pdf file). The case involved the sale of public land containing a Ten Commandments monument to the "Aerie" of the Fraternal Order of Eagles that had donated the monument in the first place. Here’s Shannen Coffin’s summary of the court’s opinion:
The opinion...holds that even if the original installation of the monument (which was erected in honor of those who saved the city from a flood) violated the constitution, the sale of the land cured the supposed violation. So here’s the obvious solution to the problem -- privatization of public land!
The plaintiffs in the original case were ginned up by our old friends, the ever-industrious Freedom from Religion Foundation, which wasn’t happy with the City of La Crosse’s extensive efforts to disassociate itself from any conceivable message of endorsement, which included the erection of a fence separating the land on which the monument stood from the larger park and copious signage. Here’s some colorful language from the dissent:
I am aware of the fact...that a disclaimer has been set next to the monument which remains exactly where it was originally placed on what was unquestionably public property, surrounded by public property, and ofr all intents and purposes is still public property.... Moreover...a disclaimer sets out that the City is not endorsing anything. The disclaimer seems to me to be taken from a scene in the movie "The Wizard of Oz," in which the phony wizard, whose fraud has been exposed, directs the onlookers to "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain;" a disclaimer that is nor more or less effective than the disclaimer at the monument. It too is an obvious sham.
It’s unfortunate that things have come to this pass--that a city government has to go to great lengths to avoid even the appearance of endorsing the Ten Commandments, that judges have to engage in considerations more appropriate to landscape architects (read the opinion; you’ll see what I mean), and that all this still isn’t good enough for some.
Nevertheless, it’s satisfying to see the Freedom From Religion Foundation lose one.
Update: This article, in discussing a dispute over a Ten Commandments monument in Cumberland, Maryland, offers some interesting historical background regarding the interest of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in the monuments. Cecil B. Demille also figures in the story. Fascinating.