By the end of the month, the courthouse in Bradford County, Fla., will be home to a large granite bench covered with quotes from famous skeptics and atheists.
How did this happen? Is Bradford County some sort of hotbed of atheism?
Late in 2006, the Dixie County Commission allowed a local resident to install a five-foot, six-ton granite Ten Commandments monument on the steps of the county courthouse. The monument -- which has the phrase “LOVE GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS” chiseled into its base -- is the only object on the courthouse steps and is visible from the street.
Back in 1999, we at Americans United got word about a Pennsylvania school district that, after being prodded by a local fundamentalist minister, decided to post the Ten Commandments in a high school.
Members of the school board knew this was unconstitutional, so they tried an end-run: They designated a certain wall a “free-speech zone” and said community groups could post “character-building” material there. Naturally, the first item posted was a Ten Commandments display donated by a local church.
Let’s say you lived in Giles County, Va., a rural enclave of about 17,000 people in the southwestern portion of the state. Let’s say you were a high school student and you were opposed to the school board’s decision to post the Ten Commandments in your school.
Would you be eager to be public about it?
Some people might be willing to stick their necks out and take a public stand. Others might want to remain a little reticent but still look for ways to right this wrong – and they might seek to do so anonymously.
After the Johnson County Commission removed a government-sponsored Ten Commandments display from the County Courthouse, the Commission created a public forum in the Courthouse lobby for displays relating to the development of American law. The Commission then accepted a display featuring the Ten Commandments, quotations from historical legal sources, and Biblical verses—bearing the message that the United States was founded on Christian principles.
Across the country, cash-strapped public schools are scrambling to keep it together. In many districts, teacher salaries are stagnant, and class sizes are growing.
This would not seem to be a good time for any public school to risk losing scarce funds by going on a Ten Commandments crusade.
Yet that’s exactly what’s going on in Giles County, Va. The school board there voted 3-2 earlier this week to bring a display of the Commandments and nine other “historic documents” to the district’s schools.
Louisiana is a perfectly nice state with a lot of good people in it – but some of the state’s legislators and public officials don’t seem to get it when it comes to separation of church and state.
The Pelican State has repeatedly passed laws that mix religion and government. Over the years, several laws have been passed designed to promote creationism – the most recent effort being a so-called “science education act” that attempts to bring anti-evolutionism in through schoolhouse backdoors.
Good news from Giles County, Va.! It looks as though local school board members may have decided not to waste precious financial resources on a church-state lawsuit they were almost certain to lose.
On Tuesday, Ten Commandments posters in all local schools came down.
That may mean the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Virginia ACLU will not be taking this constitutional violation into court.