If the Giles County School Board Wants the Ten Commandments, Are They Prepared to Pay? June 23, 2011

If the Giles County School Board Wants the Ten Commandments, Are They Prepared to Pay?

Remember when school board members in Giles County, Virginia were hearing proposals to include the Ten Commandments as part of a collection of “historical” documents — all in an effort to ram God into the public school district?

Well, the school board recently approved the idea 3-2, and the ACLU of Virginia along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation are getting ready to file a lawsuit.

I can’t wait..

On Tuesday, attorney Patrick Elliott of Freedom from Religion [Foundation], an atheist and agnostic group, said it’s “very likely” his organization and the ACLU will sue after they consult two families they represent in Giles County.

Normally, when you hear about cases like this, a Christian legal group offers to defend the other side for free. That’s certainly the case here:

Meanwhile, [school board chairman J.B.] Buckland said he and Superintendent Terry Arbogast had consulted attorneys at the Liberty Counsel. The conservative Christian legal group will represent the school board pro bono if the district faces a legal battle.

It’s because groups like Liberty Counsel say they’ll work pro bono that school districts decide to push ahead with their religious agenda. But that’s incredibly misleading. In fact, if the district loses the case, it has to foot the bill for all the expenses on the opponent’s side.

Take a look at what happened to a couple counties in Kentucky after they lost their fight to keep a Ten Commandments display up at the courthouse:

These costs can be considerable. In McCreary and Pulaski counties in Kentucky, someone got the bright idea to post the Commandments at the local courthouses back in 1999. The ACLU warned officials that they were going to get sued. County officials refused to listen (and all the voters said, “Amen!”). The ACLU sued, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the counties lost.

The case has dragged on, and now these counties have been handed a bill for $456,881 to pay the ACLU’s legal costs. The insurance provider doesn’t cover expenses like this, so what to do? Well, McCreary County — a poverty-stricken rural community of about 17,000 residents — has been reduced to begging.

All this, despite being represented by the “pro bono” Liberty Counsel. Do you think LC is going to chip in to cover the costs? Not a chance.

Since the county is already practically broke, it’s taking donations to cover the legal costs. And they’ve just had a major breakthrough:

Judge-Executive Doug Stephens reported that his office had received a $100 check from a Huntsville couple for the cause.

“We’re extremely grateful for this start,” Judge Stephens said. “We hope to appeal to the good people who had supported the effort to post the display.”

As Americans United’s Rob Boston writes, “Only $456,781 to go!”

Groups like Liberty Counsel love defending these kinds of cases, win or lose, because they get attention and donations from it. But after they lose, the parties they represent are screwed over and left to fend for themselves.

The Giles County schools are heading down the same path. If they lose, it’s the children who are going to suffer. If I were a parent in that district, I’d be pissed off that the board is more concerned about pushing god into the schools than anything educational.

As Boston writes, “the school board in Giles County is doing a great disservice to the community by possibly squandering tax funds like this. Those dollars belong in the classroom, not the courtroom.”

The school board members who voted in favor of this irresponsible idea ought to at least explain to community members where the money they owe the ACLU will come from when they lose. How much are each of them going to give…? If they won’t put their own money where their mouths are, why should the residents of the district?

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  • JD

    But they’ll never lose, how can their God ever allow them to lose?

    It is pretty sick that the Liberty Council gives them a false sense of security.

  • downtown dave

    Nothing like trying to deflate the zeal of those who know to honor God by pointing out to them the mountain that is in front of them. But God has a way of providing for His people. I’m proud of this school board. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

  • Star Stuff

    “If I were a parent in that district, I’d be pissed off that the board is more concerned about pushing god into the schools than anything educational.” Is my favorite. Thanks Hemant. 🙂

  • Star Stuff

    Downtown Dave – are you trolling or are you really that clueless about our Constitution?

  • Meghan

    @downtown, so how much money are you pledging for when they lose? Their actions are clearly unconstitutional.

  • Rich Wilson

    The other eight documents appear to be:

    The Giles County display includes framed prints of the Mayflower Compact, Virginia Declaration of Rights, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, sheet music of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a picture of Lady Justice, with her blindfold and scales.


  • Tom Bourque

    Prepare to be schooled in the constitution, Giles County School Board!

    Can all the sane people get together and secede from the stupidity?

  • Larry Meredith

    does the ACLU pay the legal fees when they lose a pro bono case? Or do they also let their clients deal with those costs?

  • ACN

    I’m proud of this school board.

    Good for you. Do you want a cookie or something?

    I can show you 3 members of that school board who are pandering imbeciles.

    Also, do you really need to put your blog link into EVERY post you make? Link it to your name, or cut it out.

  • Steve

    “But God has a way of providing for His people. ”

    Evidence please?

    I’ve never seen this occur. Ever.

  • sven

    Wow, I thought this Downtown Dave was being sarcastic. He’s a total nutcase!

  • Please do not feed the trolls.

  • Trace

    Oh no, not those Atheist-Marxists/Marxist-Atheists again!

  • Rich Wilson

    I know some people say all religions are equally crazy, but I’ve always found it useful to sort them based on whether or not their deity has selected some subset of humanity to be more special than all the others.

    Or one species to be more special, for that matter.

  • Preston

    Well, while pro bono help from Liberty Counsel is not as good as simply removing the display it does beat the proposed $350,000 that the school board was talking about saving to spend on legal fees. Maybe now the teachers in Giles County can get a raise after not having a single one in four years.

  • while i agree with the ACLU, aren’t we taking money out of their school district when the ACLU wins? just saying… i am on your side, folks…

  • The Godless Rev.

    As a resident of the McCreary County, KY, mentioned above, I am endlessly torn here. I abhorred the decision by Judge Jimmie to post the Decalogue and the endless church/state conflation that happens in this county. I am ecstatic that the ACLU won and happy, but not fully happy, with the SCOTUS ruling.
    But please understand this region. This county doesn’t even have coal. It doesn’t have an incorporated city. it’s so small, Wal-Mart wouldn’t move in. When the Great Depression ended, no one noticed. It is the poorest, most destitute, most ignorant place I have ever seen.

    MC cannot afford these fees. We can’t afford our 911 service, which I would hope is a heckuva lot more important than judicial punishment. I really, truly hope that a deal can be brokered that allows the county to be sufficiently chastised for the decision of an outgoing politican seeking to brush up his image while not driving us from poverty to desperation.

    And for the rest of you, please have a heart. McCreary County was wrong, even if most of its residents disagree with you. But please, recognize that this is demonstrable harm to the lives and livelihoods of the 17,000 men, women, and children who already have little to nothing. This is a cause for charity, not mocking and being poor winners.

  • I do indeed feel sorry for the residents of these counties. I’d much prefer if the people who pushed for and voted for unconstitutional displays (or legislation, pronouncements, etc.) could be made personally liable for these costs, but that’s not the world we live in. (And it never will be, as the people who would have to vote to change that are the people who would be put at risk.)

    So for now, what Hemant is trying to do is good. Publicize just how much losing a court case like this costs. Make sure the people in the county know, so they can apply pressure to the school board to give this up before it goes to trial (the ACLU will likely just drop the suit). If this happens often enough, then enough people will be afraid of the costs that this type of thing will stop happening. At least, in theory.

  • Richard Wade

    The Liberty Counsel profiting even though the school board will probably have their asses handed to them reminds me of this lithograph cartoon by Honore Daumier, called “The Lawyer.” It depicts a fat lawyer talking to his hapless, emaciated client. With one hand he’s reassuring his client with the OK sign, and he’s holding out his other hand for cash.

    “Oh yeah, you’re gonna win this, no problem. Go for it!”

    Daumier's The Lawyer

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I thought this Downtown Dave was being sarcastic. He’s a total nutcase!

    And a blogwhore, which becomes a bannable offense on many sites.

  • …does anyone have any stats on the Win/Loss amoutns of LC? I’d be interested to see how many of these have really been of benefit to LC’s clients.

    Besides, any school district that can’t follow the constitution deserves to be punished unless its citizens can wake up and tell the people making these decisions to STFU and GTFO!

  • Someone should tell the residents that it may cost them nearly $27 each to fight a pointless court battle. It’s not a lot but I’ll bet people will hate the thought of wasting what is the equivalent of a trip to the cinema, a lunch date or a couple of good books. They may well be inclined to vote someone else in at their next opportunity.

  • Matt H

    Have a heart? Feh. How about the folks pushing for the Commandments display BACK DOWN. They are the ones clearly in the wrong. They are the ones who will be responsible. Leave it to Christians to redistribute blame elsewhere. There is a really easy fix, but they’d rather drag everyone down with them and continue calling the ACLU “evil”.

  • Claudia

    Pro-bono? Not neccesarily:

    Carr, who with Corbin minister Herschel Walker organized the Ten Commandments Advancement Fund, also presented court members with an accounting of the fund’s expenditures since 1999. Of the $152,550 spent, $59,359 went to Liberty Counsel to represent McCreary and Pulaski counties. Previous attorneys Colonel Ronald Ray and Ted Amshoff Jr. received $20,890.56 and $11,662.49 respectively.

    I do feel a little pity for having this heaped on an already improverished county, but sadly we’ve seen time and time again that they won’t listen to reason, and can’t be bothered to read the Constitution. So it’s going to have to be cousin-of-monkey see, cousin-of-monkey do. Cousin-of-monkey sees towns crushed under the weight of unfavorable court rulings, cousin-of-monkey opts to respect (or at least obey) the actual guiding document of the law; i.e The Constitution.

  • Yoav

    while i agree with the ACLU, aren’t we taking money out of their school district when the ACLU wins?

    I think that school board members who vote for a ten commandments display or for teaching creationism in science class should be made to pay the inevitable court costs out of their own pockets.

  • atheist suck

    The great thing about all of this is that the good people of Giles county will one day get to see your asses burn in hell.

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