An Americans United assisted challenge to the display of an open Bible at a Texas courthouse came to a successful end Nov. 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.
The legal battle centered over a display in front of the Harris County Courthouse. Erected in 1956 by a Christian charity called Star of Hope to honor William S. Mosher, a Houston businessman and philanthropist, the memorial is a glass-topped case housing an open Bible lighted by neon.
Kay Staley, an attorney, county president and Americans United activist, challenged the display in 2003. A federal district court ruled that it was a violation of church-state separation, and a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that decision in August of 2006.
County officials then sought review of the panel's decision by the full "en banc" 5th Circuit of 15 judges. While the case was under consideration, however, the county removed the memorial as part of a renovation of the courthouse.
County officials then argued that the case had become moot, that the lower court's ruling should be vacated and that the plaintiff should be denied attorneys' fees. The en banc court agreed that the case is moot, but refused to vacate the trial court's decision or to deny the plaintiff fees.
The Supreme Court's action means that it will not hear an appeal by the county to address the en banc court's ruling.
Americans United Legal...