- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

Four families are suing Loudoun County Va.'s Potomac Falls High School in federal court over the administration's decision to remove several bricks on campus that were engraved with crosses.
The families, represented by the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute, claim the act violated their religious rights and their right to free speech.
"I think we've got good law on our side in this one, and I think we'll win," Tom Whitehead, president of the institute, said of the case filed March 24 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
As part of a parents association fund-raising effort, families gave money to sponsor bricks on a "walkway of fame," which they could personalize with such designs as a baseball player, a cheerleader or a cross.
Six families chose the cross design, but school officials replaced the bricks with blank ones after a parent said he was offended by the symbol. Some of the bricks had been in place for about a year, according to the Rutherford Institute.
"It's not like a neon sign," Mr. Whitehead said. "One or two parents said they were offended."
Wayde Byard, the Loudoun County school system's public information officer, said administrators could not comment on the case because it is in litigation. The school has yet to file a response to the parents' complaint, he also said.
Mr. Whitehead said school system officials created a limited public forum by allowing some to express themselves in the personalized bricks but not allowing the same for families who chose the cross. He also said that such action sends a message of intolerance to children.
The lawsuit names the school district, Superintendent Edgar Hatrick III and Potomac Falls Principal Wayne Griffith. Mr. Whitehead thinks at least a couple of the families involved in the suit would be willing to drop it if the School Board puts the bricks with the crosses back on the walkway.
The group Parents Associated with the School has used the "Walkway of Fame" fund-raiser since 2000. Parents and students can buy a brick engraved with a person's name for $50 and have a personal message added for $5. The cross had been one of the design options for several years, Mr. Byard said.
Mr. Whitehead said the institute contacted the school district's lawyer to demand the bricks be put back, but the lawyer said administrators had a right to remove them. He also said the Rutherford Institute recently won a U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed that public school officials may not impose restrictions based on the religious viewpoints on speech, whether in a limited or nonpublic forum.

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