ACLU Action Prompts School Board to Abandon Posting of Ten Commandments

November 24, 1999 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES–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 school 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 court papers that the school board’s plan violated the families’ religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The ACLU also took the school board to task for its blatant disregard of the law in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1980 finding that the posting of the Ten Commandments on public school property is illegal.

“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,” he said. “Rather, the school board’s scheme was all about indoctrinating impressionable children.”

Kobie Conner, an attorney at Morrison and Foerster, said that the families who came forward to challenge the board’s plan, Rigoberto and Odelia Roman, and Juanita Franco, are “deeply religious.”

“They do not believe, however, that it is the business of the public schools to teach religion,” she said. “That decision is reserved 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.”

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