The ACLU of Southern California claimed victory today after the Val Verde Unified School District dropped plans to post copies of the Ten Commandments on the walls of the school's offices. The school board's retreat came in the wake of the filing of a lawsuit last week by the ACLU, along with the law firm of Morrison and Foerster, on behalf of two families whose children attend school in Val Verde.
The ACLU argued in its court papers that the school board's plan violated the families' religious freedoms that are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The ACLU also took the school board to task for their blatant disregard of the law, given that the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that the posting of the Ten Commandments on public school property is illegal. (Stone v. Graham, 1980)
'It is unfortunate that it took the filing of a lawsuit for the school board to wake up and realize that its action was way out of constitutional bounds," said ACLU chief counsel Michael Small. 'This was not a case in which public school officials sought to integrate the Bible, including the Ten Commandments, into the curriculum in an objective manner as part of a general discussion of ethical and moral values, which is constitutionally permissible. Rather, the school board's scheme was all about indoctrinating impressionable children."
"The two families who came forward to challenge the board's plan, Rigoberto and Odelia Roman, and Juanita Franco, are deeply religious,' said Kobie Conner, an attorney at Morrison and Foerster. 'They do not believe, however, that it is the business of the public schools to teach religion. That is for families and children together in their homes and in their houses of worship. Perhaps now the school board will return to addressing the real educational needs of Val Verde's students."