Mercer County Schools | Cases | First Liberty

Meet Mercer County

Mercer County Schools, located in West Virginia, provides an elective, optional class about the Bible in nineteen of its public elementary, intermediate, and middle schools. On January 23, a lawsuit was filed against Mercer County Schools, claiming its voluntary classes on the Bible are unconstitutional.

Mercer County school administrators say they plan to offer an additional voluntary class on the Bible next school year to Mercer high school students, using the highly regarded curriculum The Bible and Its Influence.

Courts: Public schools may teach about the Bible

Court decisions across the country hold that public schools may teach about the Bible. In School District of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963), the Supreme Court of the United States said, “The Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.” The Court affirmed that when a class on the Bible is presented objectively as part of a “secular program of education,” it is constitutional under the First Amendment.

Over a decade later, in Wiley v. Franklin (1979), a federal court said schools can accommodate students and parents by offering voluntary classes that explore the cultural value of the Bible. The court noted that Bible writings are relevant to the study of “history, literature, poetry, music, art, government, social customs and practices, values, behavioral sciences,” and many other values and interests encompassed within the concept of “Western civilization.”

Indeed, the court explained, “To ignore the role of the Bible in the vast area of [these] secular subjects . . . is to ignore a keystone in the building of an arch, at least insofar as Western history, values and culture are concerned.”

The court concluded, “That Bible study courses can be designed for use at all public school levels, from kindergarten to college graduate level, and can be designed to avoid violation of the First Amendment religious freedom strictures cannot be doubted.”

Victory for Mercer County

First Liberty Institute and O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and Brewster, Morhous, Cameron, Caruth, Moore, Kersey & Stafford, PLLC defended Mercer County Schools against a federal lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of its elective Bible curriculum. In November 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia (Bluefield Division) dismissed the suit, rejecting the argument that teaching students about the Bible is always unconstitutional.

“The school district is grateful this unfortunate lawsuit has been dismissed and remains committed to following the law as it provides diverse educational opportunities to its students,” said Hiram Sasser, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute.

Press Release
For Immediate Release: November 14, 2017

Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org

Direct: 972-941-4453

 

Attack on Bible Curriculum Thrown Out of Court

First Liberty Institute attorneys say school district committed to following the law


PRINCETON, WV—Today, a federal district court dismissed a challenge to the Bible curriculum offered in Mercer County Schools. First Liberty Institute, the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and Brewster, Morhous, Cameron, Caruth, Moore, Kersey & Stafford, PLLC, represent Mercer County Schools. The following may be attributed to Hiram Sasser, General Counsel of First Liberty Institute:

Mercer County Schools is grateful to have this unfortunate lawsuit dismissed and remains committed to following the law as it provides diverse educational opportunities to its students. The Court rightly rejected the notion that teaching students about the Bible is always unconstitutional.

To read the court’s entire opinion, click here. To learn more about the case, visit FirstLiberty.org/MercerCounty.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

To download this press release, please click here.

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Dear Coach Kennedy,

I would like to say thank you. Your dedication to your faith and your commitment to the positive education of our youth is truly admirable. I am deeply grateful for your military service and for taking a courageous stance in protecting religious liberty rights for teachers and administrators.

If our First Amendment protects a player’s right to kneel in protest, it certainly protects your right to kneel in prayer.

I was shocked to learn that Bremerton High School suspended you after denying your request to continue your wholesome practice of giving thanks after football games.

The Bremerton School District’s actions violate the law and send the wrong message to coaches, young people, our communities, and our nation — a message of hostility to religious freedom and intolerance toward personal religious expression.

Please know that you are not alone in this difficult time — I support you and First Liberty as you continue to fight for religious freedom! Our schools need more coaches like you, our country needs more citizens like you, and our world needs more people like you.