HOUSTON A Harris County man is suing a judge for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.
James Craig Guetersloh said he noticed the religious codes hanging inside the witness box during a trip to review pleadings in a lawsuit filed against him.
On June 8, he filed a motion in federal court seeking injunctions to prevent state District Judge John Devine from displaying the commandments in court.
Devine is the presiding judge in a case in which a northwest Harris County homeowners' association alleges Guetersloh violated guidelines of the subdivision's architectural control committee.
Guetersloh's lawsuit says he is a taxpaying county citizen who objects to hanging religious symbols on county property and to requiring that state and county taxes are spent to promote any citizen's private and personal religious beliefs, according to a report in the June 10 Houston Chronicle.
Devoutly religious jurors might view the text as an instruction to ignore the facts of the case and allow the Scriptures to guide their verdict, he says.
Or, he says, an atheist might resent the display and sabotage jury deliberations.
Guetersloh also claims that the display violates his First Amendment right to freedom of religion and his 14th Amendment right to be secure against state action that would deprive him of life, liberty or property.
It is the second such suit against Devine involving the poster, which depicts stone tablets with each commandment enumerated. Another Houston judge, state District Judge Scott Brister, was sued in federal court for displaying Hebrew writings and other religious symbols in his courtroom.
Both of those suits, however, were dismissed as moot when Devine and Brister removed themselves from hearing the cases of the complaining parties.
Last year, 41 members of Congress agreed to post the Ten Commandments in their offices to endorse legislation to allow posting the religious codes on school grounds.
Roy Moore, an Alabama judge, won higher office after battling to keep his copy of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom in 1997. The Alabama Supreme Court eventually dismissed the suit against Moore on procedural grounds.
Guetersloh contends the issue needs to be decided in federal court.
Devine, a Republican who was elected judge in 1995 after campaigning as a "Christian principles" candidate, is no stranger to controversy.
More than a decade ago, he was jailed for blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic during a protest. He said last year that his one-time activism should not disqualify him from ruling on abortion cases.