The ACLU Foundation of Southern California today filed a federal lawsuit challenging the posting of the Ten Commandments on the walls of school offices in the Val Verde School District. Along with the law firm of Morrison and Foerster, the ACLU has brought this suit on behalf of two families whose children attend school in Val Verde. The Supreme Court held in Stone v.Graham (1980) that the posting of the Ten Commandments on public school property violates the religious freedoms of students guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
David McDowell, an attorney at Morrison and Foerster, said, "It is stunning that the Val Verde school board officials feel that they can choose which court decisions to follow. Those responsible for educating our children should be teaching them that it is the rule of law that governs in this nation."
"The Constitution permits a public school to integrate the Bible into the curriculum in an objective manner as part of a discussion of the history of religion or ethical and moral values," said Michael Small, the chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California. "That is not what is going on here. Rather, the Val Verde School District is seeking to indoctrinate children behind schoolhouse walls, and to force them to subscribe to particular religious tenets. That is clearly forbidden by the Constitution."
A number of parents who object to the school board's action have voiced their concerns to the Mexican Political Association. MPA President Victoria Baca said, "It is unfortunate that the school board has decided to waste time, energy, and taxpayer dollars on an action they know is illegal. The families of Val Verde would be better served if the school board truly sought to address the educational needs of its students." The Val Verde School District serves several communities in Riverside County.
The ACLU and Morrison and Foerster are representing parents Rigoberto and Odelia Roman, and Juanita Franco. ACLU's Small added, 'These parents believe in God and attend church regularly with their children. But they believe a public school is not the place to promote religion to impressionable students.
This suit seeks to guarantee that choices about religion are made by parents in their homes and their houses of worship, not by school board officials.' Along with their complaint, the ACLU and Morrison and Foerster sent a letter warning the school board that the plaintiffs would ask a court to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the posting of the Ten Commandments if the school board does not rescind its policy at its next meeting, which is scheduled forNovember 22.