Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a federal lawsuit today challenging religious displays in the Johnson County, Tennessee courthouse. There's an interesting twist to this one: the complaint argues that the County Commission, in an effort to head off a previous church-state challenge, created a public forum in the lobby of the courthouse, and approved displays with the Ten Commandments and other documents promoting Christianity. Officials rejected, however, proposals from plaintiff Ralph Stewart.

“The Johnson County Commission is promoting religion through its displays,” observes the complaint. “In addition, the Commission refuses to allow alternative points of view to be heard. This is a twofold violation of the First Amendment.”

In rejecting Stewart’s display, the Johnson County Commission insisted that it does not fall within the subject matter of the public forum its policy creates – even though Stewart’s material draws on many of the same historical sources as one of the Ten Commandments displays.

 You can read the 23-page complaint (pdf) here.