Lawsuit Against Va. County Ten Commandments Display Moves Forward

A lawsuit against a Virginia County school system over a display that includes a Decalogue is set to go forth after a failed effort by the school system to get the case dismissed.

Giles County Public Schools will be taken to court over a Ten Commandments display that was placed in Narrows High School.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Freedom From Religion Foundation took up the case of an anonymous student who was offended by the display.

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“FFRF has worked with local complainants to address the displays since December of last year,” said Patrick Elliot, staff attorney for FFRF, to The Christian Post.

Rebecca Glenberg, legal director for the ACLU of Virginia and co-counsel along with Elliot, told CP that there were many reasons why the ACLU took the case.

“First, the Supreme Court, in striking down a very similar display in the 2005 case of McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, held that it is important to look at the history of the display in order to determine the government's intent,” said Glenberg.

“Second, the reactions of the community to this controversy show that the display is perceived as an endorsement of religion.”

Glenberg compared the Giles County display to the McCreary County display from yesteryear, saying that she believed the patriotic message was not coherent.

“The Court found that the display of the Ten Commandments with the Declaration of Independence, Lady Liberty, the National Anthem, and so forth did not present a coherent non-religious message,” said Glenberg.

“The same objections can be made to the Giles County display.”

Matthew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation and policy organization, is representing Giles County in court.

“We offered assistance to the school board after we were contacted because we believe this is an important area of the law,” said Staver to CP.

“We also believe that defending a display that contains some documents that reflect the foundations of American law and government is important.”

Staver also believed that although the Ten Commandments is a religious symbol, it nevertheless has importance along with the other historical documents posted.

“While the Ten Commandments has a religious heritage, it also has influenced American law and government and thus has had a significant secular effect on government,” he noted.

“The overall display is not a religious display … it is the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation that want to rewrite American history to remove one document, The Ten Commandments, that indisputably had a profound effect on American law and government and morality.”

The struggle over Narrows High School’s Decalogue display has gone back and forth since last December, when the FFRF wrote a letter protesting a framed display of the Decalogue and the US Constitution, which had been placed in the school in 1999.

On two occasions the display has been taken down, only to be put back up in varying forms in large part because of community outcry.

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