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DOE v. COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY
February 8, 1996
JANE DOE AND RICHARD ROE, PLAINTIFFS,
THE COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY, ILLINOIS, A BODY POLITIC AND CORPORATE, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:
It was Thomas Jefferson who said,
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of
the whole American people which declared that their
legislature should `make no law respecting an
establishment of religion or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation
between church and State."
Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. (8 Otto) 145,
164, 25 L.Ed. 244 (1878).
In sum, the Establishment Clause mandates neutrality.
Jane Doe and Richard Roe, are residents of Montgomery County,
Illinois. Montgomery County displays over the main and most prominent
entrance to the County Courthouse—located in Hillsboro,
Illinois—a permanent metal sign which states "THE WORLD NEEDS
GOD."*fn1 The sign is at least ten feet long and approximately one and
one-half feet high with lettering approximately one foot high. Its
message is visible within several hundred feet.*fn2
The sign—originally illuminated in neon— was placed
initially on the Courthouse in approximately 1940 by the County Board at
the request of the Federated Women's Bible Club, which is now defunct.
The minutes of the County Board meeting initially approving the sign
provide, in full, as follows:
Mrs. Hancock, of the Federated Bible Classes of
Hillsboro, Illinois, spoke to the Board about the
County Board endorsing a neon sign to be erected on
the Court House reading "The World Needs God," and
asked the County Board for permission to erect the
sign, the cost to be paid by the Federated Bible
Class, and the electric bill to be paid by the County
Board. Several discussions followed after which there
was a motion by Marshall, seconded by Wright that the
County Board grant the right to erect the Neon sign on
the Court House. Motion carried.
The sign was removed sometime in the 1960's for renovations to the
Courthouse. The sign remained off the Courthouse for an unknown period of
In November of 1968, at the request of several local religious
groups—namely, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, various
churches of Hillsboro, and the Ministerial Association of
Hillsboro—the County again placed the sign over the main entrance
to the Courthouse. The County Board minutes describe the event as
The County currently owns and maintains the sign. If the County
desires, the sign may be removed at anytime.
In January of 1992, Doe and Roe, through their attorney, requested the
removal of the sign as a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment
Clause. In February of 1992, the County ...
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