The long battle over the display of the Ten Commandments in the schools in Giles County, VA is heading to court. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of three students in the district. Their press release sums up the history of the battle:
For years, Giles County schools posted a framed copy of the Ten Commandments along with the U.S. Constitution, but after complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation last fall, the school superintendent ordered them taken down. The school board, however, in a meeting attended by 200 residents urging restoration of the display, voted to overturn the superintendent’s decision. Only after the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened litigation did the school board reverse itself and order the Ten Commandments taken down again. Then, in June, the school board authorized the posting of the Ten Commandments with historical documents. However, Narrows High School is the only school so far to post the display.
It’s the same dodge being used elsewhere, replace the Ten Commandments with a display of “historical documents” that include the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, etc., even though the Ten Commandments clearly doesn’t belong in that context. The ACLU argues, quite rightly, that the history of the decisions made by the school board shows a clear religious intent:
On January 11, 2011, more than 200 clergy and other residents attended the Giles County School Board meeting to express disapproval of the removal of the Ten Commandments. During public comments, citizens stressed the need to keep God in the schools. One speaker said, “We all know that America was founded on biblical beliefs . . . . Our forefathers came to America and fought others for their Christian beliefs (our Christian beliefs).” Another, Pastor Creger, said that “in the past, Christians have not stood up, they allowed Madalyn Murray O’Hair to take prayer out of schools. . . . It was never our forefathers’ idea for the Ten Commandments and for God to be taken out of the system.” Eric Gentry, the chair of the Giles County Board of Supervisors, said that he “grew up with prayer still in the schools . . . . We turned out all right . . . . I talked to all of my board members last night and today. Don’t remove [the Ten Commandments]. We are behind you.” Reverend Shahn Wilburn said that he had been responsible for giving the Ten Commandments displays to the school after the school shootings at Columbine High School. He said, “I have pastored a church for over 30 years and I can tell you that God has never done us a disservice in this county and he’s blessed us with the beauty and all we have so we certainly want to honor him by posting his word in the eyes of our students and all that walk the halls.” …
On March 7, 2011, approximately 200 Giles High School students walked out of class in support of community efforts to restore the displays to the schools. A local radio host led the students in prayers. One student protester said, “God went through so much for us, so we are going through just this little bit today.” Another student said, “This is Giles County and Christ is a big, big, big part of Giles County. For those who don’t like it, go somewhere else.”
At a May 19, 2011 Giles County School Board meeting, Mr. Lilly formally presented his proposal to the school board. Approximately 100 citizens were present at the meeting to express support for the proposal, many of them wearing Ten Commandments t-shirts or carrying Ten Commandments posters, and many bused to the meeting by a local church.
On May 20, 2011, citizens held a “Ten Commandments rally” to demand the posting of the Ten Commandments in the Giles County Public Schools. One demonstrator said, “We are strong Christians and are not going to back down…we just want people to know we really need the Ten Commandments in our school system.”
The School Board met again on June 7, 2011. At that meeting, the Board voted 3 to 2 to restore the Ten Commandments displays to Giles County schools. Adopting Mr. Lilly’s proposal, the Board authorized displays that would include the Ten Commandments along with a picture of Lady Justice, the Star-Spangled Banner, the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Declaration of Independence, the
Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, and the Magna Carta.
The supporters of this policy made it very clear at all times that it was all about introducing students to God, not about teaching about history. Any claim of a secular purpose is clearly a sham. The good thing is that these folks can never shut their mouths. No matter how much the lawyers want to maintain the pretense of a secular purpose, the yahoos know it’s all about forcing their religion on others. That’s what they want to do and that’s the whole point to them — and they aren’t smart enough not to say so publicly. You can read the full complaint here.