We reported last September about the ACLU lawsuit against the Giles County, VA school board, who challenged a display of historical documents, including the 10 Commandments that were on the wall of one of the county's high schools. While being a hot topic in the conservative county, the case seems to have taken a rather unintentionally humorous turn. A federal district judge who has sent the case into mediation thinks he has the answer to the whole problem–just cut out the four commandments that refer to God. NECN.com reports:
Media outlets report that instead of making a ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski urged both sides to consider whether the display could leave out four commandments that have "God" in the wording.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia had sued on behalf of a student to remove the Ten Commandments from Narrows High School, saying it violates the First Amendment's protection against government endorsement of religion.
The Giles County School Board, represented by Liberty Counsel, argued the Ten Commandments are part of a larger presentation that includes other historical documents.
Both sides wanted the judge to rule in the case without going to trial.
"I just wonder if there isn't a reasonable compromise," said Urbanski, who could still rule if the two sides don't come to an agreement.
The Ten Commandments have had a lengthy history in the conservative, rural area. The county's two high schools and three elementary/middle schools had posted the Ten Commandments for more than a decade. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the ACLU's co-counsel in the lawsuit, objected to the displays in 2010 and requested their removal. School officials replaced them with the Declaration of Independence.
After a public outcry by ministers and local residents who wanted the schools to reflect their Christian beliefs, the school board unanimously voted in January 2011 to put the Ten Commandments back up — but removed them again the following month after Liberty Counsel attorneys advised them about such displays in the context of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another.