The Ten Commandments still sit in front of Valley High in New Kensingston, PA, in the current standoff between the school board and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. While no federal court has ever allowed the posting of the Ten Commandments in a public school, the citizens of New Ken want to waste precious tax dollars fighting the losing battle when it eventually goes to court.
In the meantime, I am sure both sides are keeping their eyes on a related case in Giles County, VA where the ACLU has sued to remove the Ten Commandments from the hallways of Narrows High School. In surprise move this week, Judge Michael Urbanski decided not hear case immediately, but instead recommended mediation as a way to resolve the differences. It was hard to imagine what there was to mediate; Either the commandments stay or the they go. However, the judge offered a middle ground, suggesting that another option would be to remove the first four commandments, which mention God, and leave the last six, sparking visions of Mel Brooks from the History of the World, Part I.
The Judge in a rather intriguing statement said:
“If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn’t it make sense for Giles County to say, ‘Let’s go back and just post the bottom six?'” Urbanski asked during a motions hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. “But if it’s really about God, then they wouldn’t be willing to do that.”
Of course, it really is about God. Consider the idea of posting without context:
- Honor your father and your mother
- Thou shalt not kill
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Thou shalt not steal
- Thou shalt not bear false witness
- Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s wife
As rules for the students to live by, this list is very odd. How about “Study hard” or “Do not cheat on exams”. More to the point, the Ten Commandments are there not because of what they say, but because of what they imply. They are an arbitrary list of rules that are important to the religious, as they establish the precedent that certain rules transcend humans and come directly from a god. To accept the Commandments is to accept your god as the ultimate decider. The judge even mocked the school board in their disingenuous comments:
Urbanski noted how one board member thanked the crowd for turning out to support the commandments. “That’s not an endorsement of religion?” he said. “Come on. “It’s clear to me that when the school board voted, there was only one thing on their mind. And that was God.”
It is very unlikely that mediation will work, but we will find out in the coming weeks. Assuming it fails , Urbanski will hear the case, which will most likely result in a victory for the ACLU and a large bill for the school district to pay, as well as a bunch of angry residents who have no understanding the First Amendment.
At that point, the focus will be on New Kensington to do the right thing and remove their illegal display from in front of the school. Oy … 10 … I mean 6 … I mean 0 Commandments left.