The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit announced on Monday that all fifteen active judges on the court will rehear a case involving the decades-old public display of a Bible on government property. A previous three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit had ruled that such a display on Harris County, Texas, property was unconstitutional. The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the continued display of the Bible.
The Bible is part of a memorial to William Mosher, a prominent local businessman and philanthropist, who had been a longtime supporter of the Star of Hope Mission, a Christian charity in Houston, Texas, that has cared for the homeless since the early 1900s. In 1956, as a memorial to Mosher, the Star of Hope Mission erected a four-foot high monument topped by a glass case that includes an open Bible to convey to the public that William Mosher was a Christian and "godly man" who had helped others.
In 2003, Kay Staley, an attorney, sued the County over the display claiming it violated the Establishment Clause. The trial judge agreed with Staley. The County appealed to the Fifth Circuit, where Staley's case was advanced by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit affirmed the trial judge's ruling.
According to Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, "This is another example of the ongoing effort to erase every vestige of Christianity from the public square. We are pleased that the entire Fifth Circuit will rehear this case."
Thomas More Law Center trial counsel, Edward L. White III, who authored the Law Center's amicus curiae brief, stated, "The memorial to William Mosher is the private speech of the Star of Hope Mission, and, as such, it is protected by the First Amendment. That the entire panel of the Fifth Circuit will rehear the case is a good sign and gives us hope the Fifth Circuit will permit the memorial to remain on the same public ground where it has stood for more than fifty years."