Court to hear arguments in challenge to Ten Commandments display

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski will hear arguments on Monday, Nov. 28, in the ACLU of Virginia and Freedom from Religion Foundation’s challenge to the posting of the Ten Commandments at Narrows High School in Giles County.

The court will consider arguments in the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case and plaintiffs’ motion to proceed using pseudonyms.

The ACLU and FFRF argue that the use of pseudonyms protects the plaintiffs from the vitriol of community members who support the School Board’s decision to have the display.

“The community has already expressed considerable animus toward these plaintiffs,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg. “If their identities are revealed, there is no doubt they will become the targets of much more direct harassment.”

The controversy began in late 2010, when the Freedom from Religion Foundation received complaints about the posting of the Ten Commandments in Giles County public schools, a practice that had been in place for years. Over the next six months a dispute ensued in which the Ten Commandments were removed, reposted, then removed again, and ultimately posted in a display with historical documents relating to American history, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Star-Spangled Banner, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

The ACLU of Virginia and the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed suit on Sept. 13, on behalf of a student and the student’s parent arguing that the display amounts to government endorsement of religion and therefore violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

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.

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