Remember when school board members in Giles County, Virginia were hearing proposals to include the Ten Commandments as part of a collection of “historical” documents — all in an effort to ram God into the public school district?
Well, the school board recently approved the idea 3-2, and the ACLU of Virginia along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation are getting ready to file a lawsuit.
On Tuesday, attorney Patrick Elliott of Freedom from Religion [Foundation], an atheist and agnostic group, said it’s “very likely” his organization and the ACLU will sue after they consult two families they represent in Giles County.
Normally, when you hear about cases like this, a Christian legal group offers to defend the other side for free. That’s certainly the case here:
Meanwhile, [school board chairman J.B.] Buckland said he and Superintendent Terry Arbogast had consulted attorneys at the Liberty Counsel. The conservative Christian legal group will represent the school board pro bono if the district faces a legal battle.
It’s because groups like Liberty Counsel say they’ll work pro bono that school districts decide to push ahead with their religious agenda. But that’s incredibly misleading. In fact, if the district loses the case, it has to foot the bill for all the expenses on the opponent’s side.
Take a look at what happened to a couple counties in Kentucky after they lost their fight to keep a Ten Commandments display up at the courthouse:
These costs can be considerable. In McCreary and Pulaski counties in Kentucky, someone got the bright idea to post the Commandments at the local courthouses back in 1999. The ACLU warned officials that they were going to get sued. County officials refused to listen (and all the voters said, “Amen!”). The ACLU sued, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the counties lost.
The case has dragged on, and now these counties have been handed a bill for $456,881 to pay the ACLU’s legal costs. The insurance provider doesn’t cover expenses like this, so what to do? Well, McCreary County — a poverty-stricken rural community of about 17,000 residents — has been reduced to begging.
Since the county is already practically broke, it’s taking donations to cover the legal costs. And they’ve just had a major breakthrough:
Judge-Executive Doug Stephens reported that his office had received a $100 check from a Huntsville couple for the cause.
“We’re extremely grateful for this start,” Judge Stephens said. “We hope to appeal to the good people who had supported the effort to post the display.”
As Americans United’s Rob Boston writes, “Only $456,781 to go!”
Groups like Liberty Counsel love defending these kinds of cases, win or lose, because they get attention and donations from it. But after they lose, the parties they represent are screwed over and left to fend for themselves.
The Giles County schools are heading down the same path. If they lose, it’s the children who are going to suffer. If I were a parent in that district, I’d be pissed off that the board is more concerned about pushing god into the schools than anything educational.
As Boston writes, “the school board in Giles County is doing a great disservice to the community by possibly squandering tax funds like this. Those dollars belong in the classroom, not the courtroom.”
The school board members who voted in favor of this irresponsible idea ought to at least explain to community members where the money they owe the ACLU will come from when they lose. How much are each of them going to give…? If they won’t put their own money where their mouths are, why should the residents of the district?