Giles County reposts the 10 Commandments
PEARISBURG, VA. – Nearly 12 years ago, in the aftermath of the shootings at Columbine High School, officials quietly posted the Ten Commandments on the walls of Giles County public schools. It was a natural reaction, said residents of this rural county peppered with churches, to such an alarming moral breakdown.There the commandments stayed, within nondescript frames that also featured the first page of the U.S. Constitution, stirring little controversy until December. That’s when an anonymous complaint prompted the superintendent to order the removal of the displays. The decision sparked such passionate community backlash that the county school board voted to post them again in January.
Giles County is down on the Virginia/West Virginia border, just for a location. It is in the heart of Virginia’s bible belt. In fact, it is so bible belt that they run a bible bus to Christian classes during the school day, according to the WaPo:
The district also runs a so-called “Bible Bus” so that students can get privately organized Christian instruction off site during the middle of the school day.
As the state becomes more secular, Giles County Schools spurred on by the community push back. Students have hung 8.5 x 11 copies of the 10 commandments on the outside of lockers at high school and it appears this case will go to court. Apparently some of the complaint over the 10 commandments displays originated right here in the Manassas area a few years ago:
The displays were the idea of a Giles County pastor, and they have generated objections on at least one other occasion. In 2004, Sarah McNair, Giles High School senior, sent letters to county politicians, calling the display of the commandments an infringement on her rights and a “serious issue that cannot be ignored.”
Both Virginia’s secretary of education and the superintendent of public instruction dismissed her concerns, said McNair, now 23, who moved from Manassas to Giles County.
I expect that the secretary of education and state superintendent of public instruction didn’t dismiss her concerns. They probably felt it wasn’t in their purview. This case is probably headed to the courts.
Scholars say that the 1980 case, Stone v. Graham, will probably preclude the school board from legally displaying the commandments on school grounds. “The school board is making a bet that the Supreme Court will overrule that decision,” said Douglas Laycock, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Virginia School of Law. “For a little school board down in the mountains, it’s an expensive endeavor.”
Should the 10 commandments be on display in schools? Didn’t Del. Bob Marshall attempt to get a bill through the General Assembly several years ago mandating that a copy be in each classroom in Virginia? Hasn’t this issue been resolved time and time again at the federal level? Why do we think the outcome will change? Why can’t observant students keep a copy in their notebook? Does a copy of the 10 commandments really change behavior if posted?