ACLU of Virginia and Freedom from Religion Foundation had threatened to file lawsuit if religious documents remained on school walls

Giles County, VA— The ACLU of Virginia today hailed a decision by the Giles County School Board to order the removal of the Ten Commandments from the walls of the public schools in this rural county in the southwestern part of the state.  The decision comes about one month after the school board ordered the religious document to be posted in every public school.
Lawyers for the ACLU of Virginia and the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to the school board on January 27 noting that the decision to place the Ten Commandments in the schools violated recent U.S. Supreme Court precedents.  They also threatened to file a federal lawsuit if the Ten Commandments were not removed.
The school board’s decision to remove the Ten Commandments, if permanent, could avoid a lawsuit.
“We are pleased that the Giles County School Board has decided to respect the principles of religious liberty on which this nation was founded by taking down the Ten Commandments,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.
“Posting the Ten Commandments in public schools is not only an unconstitutional promotion of religion by the government, but it also sends a message to students who practice a faith not based on the Ten Commandments that their religion is less important,” added Willis.  “In this country, all religions are equal in the eyes of the law.”
The Giles County controversy began last December when the Freedom from Religion Foundation complained that the Ten Commandments, which had been posted on the walls of Giles County schools for at least ten years, violated the Establishment Clause.  The Giles County school superintendent, after consulting with his attorney, ordered the schools to remove the Ten Commandments.
But at a school board meeting on January 20, more than 200 county residents showed up to object to the removal of the Ten Commandments.  Before the end of the meeting, the school board had voted unanimously to put them back.
A copy of the January 27 letter sent to the Giles County School Board by ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg and Freedom from Religion Foundation Staff Attorney Patrick C. Elliott can be found online at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/ACLU-FFRF-letter-to-school-board.pdf.

Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022

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