Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 29, 2012

Ten Commandments no longer displayed at Giles school

NARROWS, Va. — The Ten Commandments will no longer be displayed in a Giles County  school, but will be replaced with a page from a high school history textbook.

The biblical text is coming down as a result of an agreement reached Thursday by the county school board and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia.

Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia, said the school board voted to remove the display Thursday ending mediation between the ACLU and Liberty Counsel who represented the board in the case.

“They have taken down the Ten Commandments and have agreed they will not repost them unless there is a change in case law out of the Fourth District Court or the Supreme Court,” Glenberg said. “They have taken down the Ten Commandments in their entirety. The agreement has been in the works for a while, but the school board officially voted today to approve it.”

Glenberg said the ruling will not be official until recognized by U.S. District Court Judge Michael F. Urbanski with the U.S. District Court in Roanoke. However, Glenberg said the anonymous student and parent the ACLU represented in the case are pleased with the result.

“One thing that is important to recognize is that the settlement does not go into effect until approved by the judge and the judge enters a motion for dismissal,” Glenberg said. “Assuming that happens, we are very pleased with the result and our clients are very pleased to have reached a resolution. They feel the public schools in Giles County will now be a much more welcoming place for all students in Giles County.”

Matt Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, said the school board voted to replace the copy of the Ten Commandments with a copy of the textbook depicting a picture of the Ten Commandments along with Greek and Roman laws used by the Founding Fathers to set the framework of law in America.

“Before the mediation, the donor of the original display proposed the actual text of the Ten Commandments be replaced with a copy of the page from the Giles County’s history text book,” Staver said. “That put a whole different spin on this case, which detoured the ACLU case. The 29 frames will remain along the Roots of Democracy history page depicting the Ten Commandments. The ACLU will not pay attorney fees. The case is resolved and we will move forward.”

Staver said the school board was pleased with the agreement and hopes to move forward.

“The school board is very pleased with this decision,” he said. “It preserves the display, and actually has a good pictorial with the sequence of law depicting the Ten Commandments as part of the rule of law. We hope that other displays will be able to come in the future. We are very pleased with the outcome. It will now be presented to the judge for approval.”

Pastor Shahn Wilburn Riverview Baptist Church in Ripplemead, Va., has been a proponent of keeping the Ten Commandments display in local schools.

“We would have certainly have preferred for the original display to stay,” Wilburn said. “I know when they submitted the display, they were sent to mediation because the judge indicated he was not going to agree to the original display.  I appreciate the school board giving us the opportunity to showcase some of our Christian heritage through the representation of the Ten Commandments on the history book page.”

The school board voted in June to remove a plaque depicting the Ten Commandments with a page from a school textbook illustrating the how various Greek, Roman and biblical laws went in to forming America’s founding documents. The Giles County School Board entered into mediation with the Liberty Counsel in May under the order of Judge Urbanski to reach a settlement in the case.

The Ten Commandments were first hung in Giles County Schools following the Columbine school shooting in 1999. The four-foot tall display was taken down in December 2010 after school officials received complaints and was replaced by a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

School officials returned the display to school walls in January 2011 after complaints from parents and local clergy but again removed it in February 2011 with no reason stated. In March 2011, approximately 50 students walked out of school in protest of the removal of the biblical text but most returned after being spoken to by a school resource officer.

The Giles County School Board voted 3-2 in June 2011 to hang an 11-document display containing the Ten Commandments on the walls of the school. The two dissenting members felt the school could not handle the cost of legal battles over the document.

A suit was brought against the school board in September 2011 by the ACLU on behalf of an anonymous parent and student. In November 2011, Urbanski threw out two motions by the Liberty Counsel on behalf of the school board to dismiss the case and in December Urbanski upheld the decision to keep the name of the student and parent involved in the suit anonymous.  

— Contact Kate Coil at�

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