Eighty-year-old stages one-man protest against ACLU's stance on Ten Commandments

By Rozella Hardin

   Eighty-year-old Ralph Ziesmer, who moved to Elizabethton seven years ago to get away from the "cold winters" of Minnesota, took his stand against the American Civil Liberties Union by staging a one-man protest at the Carter County Courthouse Tuesday.
   Ziesmer with his hand-printed sign sat for a brief time on the courthouse steps. "I'm protesting the ACLU's challenge to displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses like this one here," said Ziesmer, who described himself as a "born-again Christian filled with the Holy Spirit."
   A federal judge in Nashville heard testimony Monday on whether to order the Ten Commandments removed from the Rutherford County Courthouse on a request for a preliminary injunction filed by the Tennessee ACLU.
   Rutherford County is the latest of several Tennessee counties to post the biblical laws. More than half of the state's 95 counties have approved the displays and more than 30 have posted the Ten Commandments -- some decades ago. Washington County has had such a display for more than 80 years. The ACLU contends that the Ten Commandments are a religious document and constitute an endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment.
   Ziesmer, who lives at 928 Walker Street, declared, "It's time for Christians to take a stand. Courthouses, like this one, belong to all the people -- not just a few. It's time to stand up for our rights. The ACLU wants to take away all our rights. If we let them, little by little they will take them. By gosh, I'm going to take my stand.
   "In my book, the ACLU has gotten away with too much as it stands now. And, we've let them do it by not standing up for what we believe in. They're (the ACLU) just a bunch of liberal lawyers trying to get rich," he said.
   "I can't do much, but I'm willing to stand up for what I believe in. I'm proud of our country. I'm proud to be a Christian, and I think it is time to do something about this situation. I believe in the Ten Commandments. They're what all our laws are based on," Ziesmer exclaimed.
   A retired sheet metal worker, Ziesmer said friends persuaded him and his wife to move here to get away from the cold Minnesota winters. Politically, he described himself as a "Democrat Republican."
   "I like the best man running, and that's who I vote for. And, I like to see our officials do the right things," he said.
   "You know if you believe in something, you need to say so. And, you need to take a stand for it. That's what wrong now, we've let the ACLU and the court take away our rights. It's our fault, we let them do it," Ziesmer said.
   The protester, clad in jeans and T-shirt, said he didn't plan to sit very long on the courthouse steps. "Just long enough to get people's attention that we need to do something. When I leave here, I may go to Blountville," he said.
   "I'm not a protester or trouble maker. I'm a peace-loving man and a taxpayer just standing up for my rights and that of other Christians," Ziesmer said.