Robert Knight

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has lost its six-year campaign to tear down a Ten Commandments monument at the Dixie County, Florida courthouse.

They've even lost their usual extortion money for harassing a community.

The case fell apart after the plaintiff, an anonymous North Carolina man who had planned to come to Dixie County to live in his RV, decided not to move there after all.

Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice M. Paul dismissed the case without prejudice on Feb. 13, because the plaintiff lacked standing. The ACLU could re-file if an actual resident is willing to buck the strong tide of sentiment in the county. For now, Mr. “‘Heel on Wheels” [not his actual nickname] has sunk the ship.

In February 2007, the ACLU filed a lawsuit naming “John Doe” as the plaintiff. Judge Paul ruled in 2011 that the monument was an establishment of religion, and awarded $130,000 in legal fees to the ACLU, which had tried to finger the taxpayers for $160,000. He then stayed his order, and was reversed by the 11th Circuit. When the plaintiff pulled out, it blew up the whole thing, including the ACLU’s award of legal fees.

Harry Mihet, an attorney at Liberty Counsel, which represented Dixie County, found the outcome pleasing: “We went from an order that ‘the monument goes and you have to pay $130,000 to the ACLU,’ to ‘the monument stays, and the ACLU has to pay a total of $3, 600,’” Mr. Mihet told me.

For the 75-year-old “John Doe,” the dismissal’s bright spot is that he won’t have to leave North Carolina’s barbecue country for less certain barbecue conditions in Florida. He made the decision not to move upon learning that his identity would be revealed if the case proceeded. The initial ruling had triggered a pro-monument rally of 1,500 in nearby Cross City, whose population is 1,700, according to Ocala.com. So far, the ACLU has not insisted that Cross City change its name.

Mr. “Doe” apparently figured, according to the ACLU, that his new neighbors would welcome him not with their own version of home-cooked barbecue but with something a little stronger. No word on whether the good citizens of Dixie County will countersue for defamation, claiming that “John Doe” and the ACLU have slyly caricatured them as violent half wits right out of the movie “Deliverance.”


Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.