God Almighty needs an editor, according to a federal judge in Virginia. At least, He does when the Ten Commandments are on government property.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had sued the Giles County school district for posting the Ten Commandments in its public schools, and U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski sent the case to mediation on Monday, suggesting a compromise: deleting the four commandments that mention God.
An Obama appointee, Judge Urbanski also issued a preliminary injunction on behalf of the ACLU in February prohibiting the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors from “invoking the name of a specific deity associated with any one specific faith or belief in prayers given at Board meetings.” No word yet on how much this ticked off the local Hittites and voodoo priests.
It’s all part of the campaign for “religious equality,” in which atheism and tree worship are considered equal (or superior) to the nation’s founding faith. The only surprise Monday was that the ACLU didn’t immediately object to leaving intact the commandment against adultery.
Among the items displayed alongside the Ten Commandments at Narrows High School are the Declaration of Independence, the Mayflower Compact, the Magna Carta, the words to the Star-Spangled Banner and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.
Because none of the other 10 documents is being challenged, it’s obvious that the Ten Commandments are offensive solely because they are religious in origination and remind people of America’s dominant faiths, Christianity and Judaism. In a brief filed on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the ACLU says the presence of the Decalogue violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
For 10 years, the Ten Commandments had been posted in a frame in each of the public schools of Giles County. They were gifts to the schools from a local pastor, who thought they would be a good addition in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999.
The displays were not a problem until Dec. 8, 2010, when the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the superintendent demanding that the displays be removed after a single complaint by a student and the student’s parent.
The schools tried a variety of solutions, including replacing the Ten Commandments with a copy of the Declaration of Independence. This didn’t sit well with many in the community. On Jan. 11, 2011, a meeting was held with about 200 people, including clergy, and a short time later, the school board voted to reinstall the displays.
The commandments were reposted and then taken down again upon the advice of counsel. A local lawyer proposed a display that would include the Decalogue in a historic exhibit about Western foundational law and government.
It’s unclear whether the ACLU will accept the judge’s offered compromise because the six remaining commandments came from the God Who is not supposed to be mentioned on government property, even though it’s part of the universe that He created.
“We intend to show that the school board cannot simply shroud its religious purpose for posting the Ten Commandments by surrounding it with historical documents,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg.
The ACLU’s press release notes, “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.”
If that’s not enough for a sensitive, easily offended student to lose his or her lunch, what is?
According to Liberty Counsel, which is representing the school district, “The Virginia Standards of Learning requires students to know about the foundational principles of civilizations, including the Hebrews, and the foundations of law and government. Secular textbooks published by Prentice Hall and McGraw-Hill trace the roots of democracy and law and specifically refer to the Ten Commandments and many of the documents posted as part of the Foundations Display.”