After months of litigation against the ACLU and the Santa Rosa County School District, and on the eve of Independence Day, a Christian legal defense organization has restored freedom to the District’s teachers, staff, students, and members of the community.
Faced with an imminent trial and surmounting evidence of their constitutional violations, the ACLU and the District agreed to settle Liberty Counsel’s federal lawsuit, challenging their Consent Decree on behalf of students, teachers, parents and community members. The Consent Decree that led to criminal indictments against school employees for prayer and banned “God Bless” in Santa Rosa County schools will now be gutted and revised.
“We are pleased that freedom has been restored to Santa Rosa County,” said Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law. “It is appropriate to celebrate these restored freedoms as America celebrates Independence Day. From the beginning we contended that this Consent Decree went too far and swallowed up the rights of teachers, staff, students and members of the community. The Constitution is not some relic that can be discarded at will.”
The amended Consent Decree will restore dozens of constitutional religious freedoms that were previously denied. In addition, Liberty Counsel and Christian Educators Association International will be awarded $265,000 in attorney’s fees and costs from an insurance provider, not the taxpayers, to compensate them for the litigation caused by the ACLU and the District.
“This is a huge step in the right direction and a victory for the citizens in Santa Rosa County,” said Liberty Council in a statement. “The notice of settlement was filed with the court this morning and awaits official approval by the school board and the court. As a result, the teachers will now be able to pray at school during their break times, pray during school events in a nonofficial capacity, attend and fully participate in baccalaureate services, have a Bible on their desk, wear religious jewelry, and assign readings from the Bible to students when relevant to nonreligious academic assignments.” The Consent Decree further acknowledges students’ right to voluntarily pray, submit religious answers in homework, and freely participate in private, after-school religious programs.
Liberty Counsel and its 24 clients will be hosting a Victory Rally and Celebration on Wednesday, July 6, 2011, 7-9 p.m. at Pace Assembly Ministries, 3948 Highway 90, Pace, FL. This event is open to the public, but free tickets are required and can be ordered at www.LC.org.