Once again, the plaque is in the news.

On Monday, the lawsuit was taken to the next level, as Chester County commissioners appealed the March 2002 federal ruling that ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments plaque from the courthouse in West Chester. Three judges heard arguments about whether the marker is a historical artifact, which will apparently carry a lot of weight in determining whether it will be allowed to stay on the outside wall of the building.

Bewailed by some, boosted by others, the Ten Commandments plaque is inextricably linked with Judeo-Christianity. The judges must consider, does it function merely as a reminder of the roots of the legal system, or does its presence on the courthouse act as an establishment of religion that would oppress those of differing, or no, faiths?

Given the thrust of the appeals judges' questions and comments, it appears that even if the Ten Commandments plaque is seen as a nonsecular (religious-oriented) symbol, it may be allowed to stay despite the First Amendment objections of the Freethought Society, if it is perceived as carrying sufficient historical weight as well.

The lawsuit was filed in 2001, so people in the county have already had a long time to make up their minds on the issue, but the 82-year-old marker will have to wait some more before any decision is made. Even then, since the commissioners had no trouble finding donors to underwrite the current appeal, the case could still go higher. If it goes all the way to the Supreme Court, the plaque could stay up for years more, although shielded by its current enamel cover.

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