Giles County Commandments Come Down – For Now

A Virginia school board has voted to remove the Ten Commandments from its public schools, after several civil liberties groups threatened to sue.

For more than 12 years, the Commandments have hung on the walls of Giles County public schools. In December 2010, Superintendent Terry Arbogast decided to take down the displays after receiving an anonymous complaint.

County residents and conservative clergy protested the removal, and the board voted to return the religious texts to school hallways. This time, the Commandments were placed in the same frame as the Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation alerted the school board that they planned to represent two families who object to the religious displays and want to file suit. Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right group affiliated with Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University, then stepped in and told the school board it would defend the school district for free.

But before litigation began, the board voted to take the Decalogue down, at least for now. School officials claim this is not the final decision, and the Commandments may go back up with an array of other historical documents to strengthen their case.

“We can’t justify spending $300,000 [for legal costs] at a time like this, when we need that money for instruction,” said School Board Member J.B. Buckland. “But based on the Liberty Counsel’s advice, we will consider putting something back up.”