By Michael Davis
Monday, August 9, 2004

In a show of solidarity for Henry County commissioners’ decision to post a Ten Commandments display in the county courthouse, a southern heritage group held a rally on the town square in McDonough Saturday.

The display has not been posted but commissioners resolved to do so last month.

Judy and Jerry Leatherman came from Stockbridge to attend the rally.

"I want to support the Ten Commandments and make sure everybody knows it’s in the courthouse," Jerry Leatherman said. "Every county and every citizen needs to support it."

Jerry Leatherman said he is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

No Henry commissioners attended the rally, but state League of the South chairman Ray McBerry read a statement from Commission Chairman Leland Maddox. The League donated the display to the county last month.

The League also recognized Barrow County commissioners who were collecting donations to pay the legal expenses of their fight to keep the Commandments in their courthouse.

Jody Hice, president of Ten Commandments Georgia, a group formed to raise money to fight the lawsuit, said the American Civil Liberties Union’s court challenge has cost $20,000-25,000 per month.

Barrow County Commissioner Bill Brown said he posted the display in the Barrow Courthouse after a member of his church gave him the dispaly. He said he quietly hung the display after consulting his fellow commissioners, who did not object, and it remained in the courthouse breezeway for more than a year before the ACLU brought a legal challenge.

He said Barrow’s fight will set a precedent across the state.

"If we lose the battle, it’s going to be over for everybody else," he said.

Henry County has not posted the display. County officials say they are waiting on similarly framed copies of several documents such as the U.S. Constitution to arrive to complete the display.

A small copy of the 10 Commandments already hangs in the entrance of the community room at the Henry County Administration Building.

The League of the South recommends that the display be accompanied by historical documents to be better defensible in court.

McDonough mayor Richard Craig was the only elected Henry County official to appear at the rally. State Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who proposed a bill in the last session of the Georgia General Assembly to use the resources of the state attorney general to defend county governments engaged in battles similar to Barrow County’s, sent a written statement.

The League of the South was joined by other southern heritage groups such as the Southern Party.

Ray McBerry defended against the League’s classification as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center last week in an interview. He said the League’s focus is to remind southerners of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution outlining states’ rights and the 10 Commandments issue is an educational tool. "What we need today is a governor and Legislature who will have the fortitude to stand up (to federal judges and federal government) and say, ‘get your noses out of our business,’" McBerry said.

Copyright © 2004. Daily Herald