Giles County, VA – On Monday, May 7, Judge Michael Urbanski of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia will hold a summary judgment hearing on Doe v. School Board of Giles County. Liberty Counsel will represent the school board against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represents the Doe plaintiffs in the suit.
ACLU of Virginia sued the Giles County School Board after the Board adopted an open forum policy, which permits the display of historical documents by private individuals or groups. A privately-sponsored historical document display consisting of eleven documents, one of which is the Ten Commandments, in equally-sized frames was posted in Narrows High School. The Foundations of American Law and Government display also includes, among other documents, the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and Mayflower Compact. The purpose of the display is to teach the historical foundation of American law. Additional historical documents were later posted, consisting of the First Charter of Virginia, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, a depiction and quote of Patrick Henry, a depiction of Minutemen, a depiction of George Washington, Washington’s Farewell Address, a depiction of Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, Jefferson’s letter to Reverend Samuel Miller, Jefferson’s 1779 Thanksgiving Proclamation, the Northwest Ordinance, and a document explaining the significance of each.
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. One of the Doe plaintiffs, who is the parent of the other Doe plaintiff, a student at Narrows High School, admits that studying such documents is appropriate in a textbook and that the Ten Commandments was significant in the development of law and government. Nevertheless, the parent and the student complain that only the Ten Commandments document should be removed from the display of 20 documents. The ACLU does not challenge the curriculum, which integrates the Ten Commandments as part of various subjects of study, but only the inclusion of the Ten Commandments as part of the display.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said, “The ACLU has done everything it could to run from the facts and the law that control this case. The Foundations of American Law and Government display has been upheld by multiple federal courts of appeal. It is clearly appropriate to include the Ten Commandments in a display on law, because there is no dispute that they helped shape American law and government. This display includes 20 documents and pictures and reflects the curriculum, which is clearly constitutional. There is no dispute that the Ten Commandments influenced American law and government.”
Mat Staver will argue in federal court on Monday in defense of the Giles County School Board.