Court to Hear Arguments Monday in Case Challenging Giles County Ten Commandments Display

ACLU and Freedom from Religion Foundation Represent Student and Parent

Giles County, VA – U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski will hear arguments on Monday, November 28, in the ACLU of Virginia and Freedom from Religion Foundation’s challenge to the posting of the Ten Commandments at Narrows High School in Giles County.

The court will consider arguments in the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case and plaintiffs’ motion to proceed using pseudonyms.

The ACLU and FFRF argue that the use of pseudonyms protects the plaintiffs from the vitriol of community members who support the School Board’s decision to have the display.

“The community has already expressed considerable animus toward these plaintiffs,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg.  “If their identities are revealed, there is no doubt they will become the targets of much more direct harassment.”

The controversy began in late 2010, when the Freedom from Religion Foundation received complaints about the posting of the Ten Commandments in Giles County public schools, a practice that had been in place for years.  Over the next six months a dispute ensued in which the Ten Commandments were removed, reposted, then removed again, and ultimately posted in a display with historical documents relating to American history, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Star-Spangled Banner, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

The ACLU of Virginia and the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit on September 13, 2011 on behalf of a student and the student’s parent arguing that the display amounts to government endorsement of religion and therefore violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The Ten Commandments are posted on a main hallway at the high school, near the trophy case and on the way to the cafeteria, where it is seen by students every day.

The plaintiffs are represented by Rebecca K. Glenberg and Thomas Okuda Fitzpatrick of the ACLU of Virginia, Patrick Elliott of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and Frank Feibelman, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Virginia.  The complaint can be found online at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/20110913GilesCo10CsDoecomplaint.pdf

Case:  Doe v. School Board of Giles County
When: Monday, November 28, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.
Where: Courtroom of Judge Michael F. Urbanski
U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia
210 Franklin Road Southwest
Roanoke, Virginia
Attorney Arguing for the ACLU: Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director

Contact:  ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, 804-644-8022