The Ten Commandments is at the center of yet another heated debate. This time, the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is taking a local school district to task over the display of the Commandments inside of Narrows High School in Narrows, Virginia.
Similar to the case over a prayer mural in Cranston, Rhode Island, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a student (who, along with his or her family will remain anonymous, as per a judge's order) who wants to see the display removed. The basis of the complaint is familiar: The presence, those opposed to it contend, illustrates a government endorsement of religion and is, thus, unconstitutional.
The Giles County School District, of which Narrows High School is a part, is being represented by Liberty Counsel, a Christian non-profit law group that is claiming that the presence of the display is, in fact, perfectly legal. The debate over the presence of the Ten Commandments began back in 2010 when the Freedom From Religion Foundation first received complaints about it. Inevitably, the ACLU got involved.
After the initial complaints surrounding the Ten Commandments, the list of moral elements to follow was apparently removed and re-posted a number of times. In the end, it was made part of a larger display of historical documents that have shaped American history, the ACLU claims.
"This action flies in the face of both strong legal precedents and our fundamental notions of what religious equality means in the United States," the ACLU said in a national statement. "When the government promotes one faith, whether it is through the Ten Commandments or other religious documents, it automatically diminishes all other faiths."
But Mathew Staver, who serves as dean of Liberty University School of Law and the chairman of the Liberty Counsel, counters this argument by claiming that the Ten Commandments has every right to be displayed. Staver says that it is perfectly protected as a portion of a grander historical setting alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
On Monday, federal Judge Michael Urbanski ordered all parties to discuss the future of the Ten Commandments in mediation. If, indeed, a solution cannot be reached, then the case will return to court. The Bluefield Daily Telegraph has more:
A federal court judge ordered mediation Monday for the parties involved in a lawsuit about whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed at a Giles County high school.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael F. Urbanski with the U.S. District Court in Roanoke ordered the Giles County School Board and the unnamed student and parent into mediation to see if a compromise can be reached over the display of the biblical texts.
The Liberty Counsel, which is representing the Giles County School Board, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, which is representing the unidentified student and parents, will meet with a magistrate judge during the mediation period. If no decision is made during mediation, the case will return to court.
But Urbanski also made a curious recommendation to help alleviate tensions and to find a potential middle ground. Rather than keeping all 10 commandments, he suggested removing the first four and simply leaving the remaining six. Why, you ask? Well, the first few codes are religious in nature, whereas the final six are far more secular.
"If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn't it make sense for Giles County to say, 'Let's go back and just post the bottom six?'" Urbanski asked during the proceedings. "But if it's really about God, then they wouldn't be willing to do that."
We'll have to wait and see what solution the two parties come to in the coming weeks.
(H/T: Wall Street Journal)