By Clem Boyd
What was the Rev. Ken Johnson thinking? As leader of the Adams County, Ohio, Ministerial Association, did he really expect the American Civil Liberties Union to allow the local school board to post the Ten Commandments at four new public schools in 1997?
"I just didn't think anybody in the county would be against the Ten Commandments," Johnson said. "Christians, Muslims and Jews all respect the Ten Commandments; I didn't think we'd have any problems."
Berry Baker, a 55-year-old communications equipment installer from Peebles, Ohio, saw the Ten Commandments and complained to the school board in 1998. The ACLU filed suit in February 1999.
That was just the beginning for Johnson. The ministerial association decided to hold a public meeting to discuss the lawsuit-and 600 residents showed up.
"We saw there was a lot more support (to fight this) than just among the ministers," Johnson said. "That's the reason we formed Adams County for the Ten Commandments (ACTC)."
Johnson founded ACTC with fellow ministers Tom Claibourne, Ron Stephens and Doug Ferguson. They created a yard sign which reads "We Stand for the Ten Commandments" to raise money for the school board's legal defense. It wasn't long before the idea caught on nationwide. As of Oct. 3, ACTC had shipped 113,000 signs to 47states and Puerto Rico.
Johnson, who also opposed a casino-gambling initiative in Ohio and serves as president of Citizens for Community Values of Adams County, said he sees many positive results from ACTC's efforts.
"When 1,600 people show up for a school board meeting over a cause, that's pulling the community together," he said. "Plus, most of my interviews are with the secular press, so a lot of people are learning about the Ten Commandments."
As a co-defendant with the other ministers in the suit, Johnson said this effort is about taking a stand.
"I'm in Adams County, and we fight for what we believe," he said. "When we first heard about the lawsuit, I thought, 'Oh, no!', but then I began to see that bad can be turned for good. If this suit was never filed, we wouldn't be sending Ten Commandment signs all over the nation."