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The Associated Press

MILES CITY (AP) — Custer County commissioners have killed a proposal that would have allowed the Ten Commandments to remain on display outside the courthouse.

The decision is the latest round in a feud that began in 1999 when the American Civil Liberties Union sued over displays of the Ten Commandments and a Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn.

Under an agreement to settle the lawsuit last October, the county removed the Nativity scene, and agreed to include the Ten Commandments only as part of an “Evolution of Law” display that also would include the Bill of Rights, the Montana Constitution and portions of the Magna Carta.

But the three commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously against building the Evolution of Law display.

Commissioner Duane Mathison, who earlier declined to sign the consent agreement with the ACLU, said he felt the Ten Commandments should be displayed alone or not at all.

Commissioners Dan Connors and Janet Kelly said they voted against the project because of its price tag, which was expected to top $24,000.

Commissioners did not immediately decide what will become of the Ten Commandments monument, a large engraved tablet.

County Attorney Coleen Magera is expected to advise the commissioners on legal options. Connors said he hopes a final decision on the fate of the Ten Commandments display will be made by the end of the summer.

The monument has been on the courthouse lawn year-round for at least 20 years. The Nativity scene was displayed from November until just after Christmas for seven years.

ACLU representatives in Montana said the organization filed the suit after receiving complaints about the displays from area residents.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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