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.
That decision was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which ruled against the school.
First Liberty Institute is appealing a portion of that opinion to the Supreme Court of the United States while also litigating other elements of the case at the district court.
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.
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.”
For Immediate Release: November 14, 2017
Contact: Lacey McNiel, email@example.com
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 972-941-4453.
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