Civil liberties groups says students’ posting of individual religious expression in personal spaces is different from school officials imposing religious beliefs on studentsFloyd County, VA — The ACLU of Virginia today emailed a letter to the principal of Floyd County High School urging him to allow students to post their personal views, including the Ten Commandments, on their lockers.
According to news reports, Floyd County High School officials have ordered the Ten Commandments to be removed from all student lockers. The organized student effort to post the Ten Commandments comes in the wake of a highly public controversy in nearby Giles County, where school officials recently ordered the Ten Commandments to be posted in all schools, but had them taken down after the ACLU of Virginia and the Freedom from Religions Foundation threatened to sue.
Floyd County High School apparently requires students to first seek approval for posting announcements and flyers on their lockers, but not personal messages, such as birthday greetings and well wishes for sporting events.
“Schools have the authority to ban all displays on school property,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “But if a school allows students to post some kinds of personal messages on their lockers, it must also allow other kinds of messages, including those that have religious content.”
“The removal of the Ten Commandments from student lockers at Floyd County High School appears to violate the First Amendment rights of students by discriminating against religious expression,” added Willis.
In her letter to Principal Barry Hollandsworth, ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg draws a distinction between school-imposed religious expression, such as that which occurred in nearby Giles County, and the personal religions expression of students.
“The Supreme Court recognizes the difference between school officials’ imposing religious messages on students, which violates the establishment clause, and school officials allowing students to express their own views on religion in situations that are not school-organized or sponsored,” said Glenberg.
Glenberg’s letter can be found online at: http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/20110225FloydCountyLockerTenCsLetter.pdf .
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022