Gov. Janet Napolitano will not order the removal of the Ten Commandments from a state-owned park, paving the way for a court battle.
Napolitano acknowledged Monday that most courts which have looked at the issue have concluded that identical or similar displays cannot be located on public property. But Napolitano, who as attorney general banned religious symbols from public areas of that agency’s office, said she has no intention of banning the 6-foot granite monument.
"What I understand is there is some discussion of moving the plaque to private land," she said, a reference to an offer by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which donated it to the state in 1964, to take it back.
But Ray Spencer, who is representing the Phoenix chapter in talks with the state, said that offer was made only as a contingency if the state orders the monument removed.
He said the Eagles are not voluntarily seeking its return.
The other option, Napolitano said, is that the issue "will be resolved in court."
That stance disappointed Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has said if the statue is not removed from Wesley Bolin Plaza, across the street from the state Capitol, the group will file suit.
"We can do this without any rancor and without spending taxpayer money for court battles," Eisenberg said. The state likely would lose any court fight, she said.
Napolitano acknowledged that is a possibility.
"The bulk of the law would be in favor of moving the Ten Commandments from a public place," the governor said.
Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to disturb a federal appellate court ruling ordering the removal of an identical monument from the front of a municipal building in Elkhart, Ind. That monument also was donated by the Eagles.
"There are some other cases that would suggest that, since it’s been there so long, it can remain," Napolitano said.
The governor said, though, she will not intercede.
"That’s an argument for the courts or a settlement between the parties," she said.