According to the Associated Press (AP) in The Virginian-Pilot, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski has sent a suit challenging the display of the Ten Commandments at Narrows High School to mediation. The judge urged both sides to consider whether the display could leave out four commandments that have “God” in the wording. Both sides wanted the judge to rule in the case without going to trial. “I just wonder if there isn’t a reasonable compromise,” said Urbanski, who could still rule if the two sides do not come to an agreement.
The Ten Commandments have had a lengthy history in the conservative, rural area. Giles County’s two high schools and three elementary/middle schools had posted the Ten Commandments for more than a decade. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the ACLU’s co-counsel in the lawsuit, objected to the displays in 2010 and requested their removal. School officials replaced them with the Declaration of Independence.
After a public outcry by ministers and local residents who wanted the schools to reflect their Christian beliefs, the Giles County School Board (GCSB) unanimously voted in January 2011 to put the Ten Commandments back up, but removed them again the following month after Liberty Counsel attorneys advised them about such displays in the context of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another.
Giles County residents held a rally last spring to demand that the Ten Commandments be returned to the schools. School board members voted 3-2 in June 2011 to rehang the biblical texts in Narrows High School as part of displays that include other U.S. historical documents including the Declaration of Independence, the Star-Spangled Banner, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Source: The Virginian Pilot, 5/8/12, By AP
[Editor's Note: In December 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, which reported that a federal district court had denied GCSB's motion to dismiss a suit challenging the constitutionality of a display of the Ten Commandments in a county high school.
In March 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Valley News Dispatch, which reported that the FFRF had sent a letter to Pennsylvania school district officials asking them to remove a stone monument displaying the Ten Commandments, which the New Kensington Fraternal Order of Eagles donated to the district decades ago.]