We had forgotten all about this litigation. The last time we wrote about it was six months ago — see West Virginia Bible Classes — Update. As we said then:
The parent of a public school student, represented by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, had sued the Mercer County school board, alleging that the “Bible in the Schools” program, active in 15 elementary schools, is unconstitutional.
Mercer County’s school board has canceled Bible classes in its public elementary schools next school year, but it’s now adding a new, optional high school Bible course for next school year.
“The current suit is continuing,” [said] Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott …” “It is unclear if Mercer County Schools will continue to teach the Bible in the Schools courses for middle school students,” Elliott continued. “We are still reviewing documents filed by the school system in court and we expect to file a reply in the coming weeks.”
That’s where the case dropped out of the news and we lost interest, but today, in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph of Bluefield, West Virginia, which is in Mercer County, we found this headline: Bible in the Schools lawsuit dismissed in Mercer County. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
A federal lawsuit challenging Mercer County’s Bible in the Schools curriculum was dismissed Tuesday afternoon based on the suspension of the program. However, the court ruling leaves the door open for an injunction if the program is reinstated in the future and found to violate constitutional law.
That makes sense, but the controversy is far from over. The newspaper says:
In April, Mercer County Schools terminated the employment of all Bible in the Schools teachers and, in May, the Board of Education voted to suspend the program for at least a year to ensure thorough review and modification to the program. “We have currently suspended the program and are re-evaluating the curriculum,” Mercer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers said Tuesday afternoon. “We want to make sure any programs implanted, henceforth, will meet all guidelines.”
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The school system is going to mull things over and try to make any future bible classes meet “all guidelines” — like the Constitution. Then the newspaper quotes the school board’s lawyer:
“Mercer County Schools is grateful to have this unfortunate lawsuit dismissed and remains committed to following the law as it provides diverse educational opportunities to its students,” First Liberty Institute, counsel for the school board, said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “The court rightly rejected the notion that teaching students about the Bible is always unconstitutional.”
The court left the door open for future bible classes? That’s the opinion of the school board’s lawyers. The newspaper tells us:
In response to the ruling, FFRF [Freedom From Religion Foundation] called the classes “blatantly unconstitutional” and cited the struggles of other plaintiffs in the case. “Two of the plaintiffs, Elizabeth Deal and her anonymous child, ‘Jessica Roe,’ suffered harm due to the bible classes,” FFRF said in a statement. “Deal had to move Jessica out of the school system to end harassment at the hands of her classmates.”
The FFRF lawsuit also cited specific curriculum in the Bible in the Schools program. “Lesson 2 promotes creationism by claiming humans and dinosaurs co-existed,” the complaint stated. “Students are asked to ‘picture Adam being able to crawl up on the back of a dinosaur! He and Eve could have their own personal water slide! Wouldn’t that be so wild!’ ”
Great textbook! The news story continues:
“Furthermore, should a Bible in the Schools [BITS] curriculum re-emerge, the court has no information before it to determine the content of such a class,” Federal Judge David A. Faber said in his ruling. “With no facts before us to determine whether the [BITS program] might violate the Establishment Clause, the court is left unable to engage in the context-dependent inquiry of a future BITS curriculum.” Until future Bible in the Schools curriculum is presented in “clean-cut and concrete form, this action is not ripe for judicial review,” the ruling states.
Fair enough. Each new bible class the county offers will have to be evaluated separately. And there will be more. Let’s read on:
The ruling did note the statement of defendants as reported in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph citing a desire to resurrect the Bible in the Schools program after a review.
“[Mercer County Schools Superintendent] Akers reportedly emphasized ‘Mercer County Schools is continuing its efforts to keep the Bible in the Schools program,’ although a timetable for a new BITS program has not been established,” the court ruling states. Akers emphasized Tuesday that review is ongoing to ensure any future Bible classes would meet constitutional standards.
What will they try next — intelligent design? Here’s another excerpt:
Akers confirmed Tuesday that classes teaching the Bible from a historical and literary perspective are currently being offered as an elective at Bluefield and PikeView high schools, and will likely be offered at Princeton High School during the spring semester.
Isn’t that wonderful? Here’s one last excerpt:
The FFRF [Freedom From Religion Foundation] statement noted that plaintiffs in the current case are likely to appeal the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
So there you are. The plaintiffs may appeal the dismissal of their suit, so we haven’t heard the end of this one yet. Stay tuned to this blog!
Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.