We may need to call in Scooby Doo and the gang to solve the Mystery of the Christian School Plaques. In Midlothian, Texas there is a plaque embedded into the wall at the entrance of the elementary school that reads: “Dedicated in the Year of Our Lord 1997 to the Education of God’s Children and to their Faithful Teachers in the Name of the Holy Christian Church.”
A couple months ago the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the school district complaining about the clearly unconstitutional plaques and the school, told by their attorney that they would lose if they got sued over it, covered them up with duct tape. But someone removed the tape — the district says they have no idea who it was — and now they’re basically daring FFRF to sue them over it.
The group said the plaques violate the Constitution “far more” that earlier religious displays at public schools that were rejected by federal courts, because the plaques say “the Holy Christian Church” and contain a Latin phrase meaning “glory to God alone” or “glory to the only God.”
Midlothian ISD attorney John Hardy, with Hardy Cook in Tyler, responded to the letter two weeks later, saying the plaques would be removed as requested. The plaques were soon after covered up by school officials.
The school district said Wednesday that it has not been threatened with a lawsuit yet, but said that its attorney advised that it would lose in court if it refused the request and was sued.
The school district also said that unknown persons have uncovered the plaques.
In a brief news conference Thursday, Superintendent Jerome Stewart said that “as a district employee, my personal beliefs and opinions in this constitutional matter must be secondary to the current interpretation of the law of the land.”He said the district will seek additional, outside legal counsel and has no plans to cover the plaques again.
The district’s about-face comes after two days of protests by approximately 100 students and parents at the school administration building, NBC-affiliate KXAS reported.
Stewart’s statement to not cover the plaques again was met with cheers.
And here’s why this all happened:
The Liberty Institute – a Plano, Texas-based religious freedom group – applauded Stewart’s announcement Thursday.
“Our preliminary investigation of the Midlothian plaque issue leads us to believe the school district created a limited public forum for plaques relating to the topic of the building dedication,” said Hiram Sasser, the group’s litigation director. “The plaque at issue is thus private speech and the First Amendment prohibits the government from censoring private speech simply because of its religious viewpoint.”
What happened here, I’m quite certain, is that the Liberty Institute contacted the school and said they’d represent them for free (but won’t cover the cost of the FFRF’s legal fees when they inevitably lose, I’m sure). And this claim that the plaque was part of an open forum is amusing. I can’t wait to see what evidence they have for that claim. Did they put out a public notice saying that anyone who wanted to embed a metal plaque in the brick exterior of the building could do so? If not, this is all a bunch of bullshit.