Don’t display Ten Commandments in schools, warns group opposed to NC district’s idea

Simone Jasper

A North Carolina school board is considering displays of the Ten Commandments — but a group wants the district to scrap the idea.

The Cleveland County school board in December approved making a draft of a policy that would mandate the Biblical principles be put on display at entrances to 30 buildings across the district, the Shelby Star reported.

In a video of the meeting, board member Ron Humphries said the displays would be allowed under a statute that permits the display of documents that have historical significance.

Under North Carolina law, a school “display may include, but shall not be limited to, documents that contain words associated with a religion; provided, however, no display shall seek to establish or promote religion or to persuade any person to embrace a particular religion, denomination of a religion, or other philosophy.” Also, the state says religious texts should have the same appearance as other documents and should be placed near signs about the First Amendment.

But one group on Thursday said it doesn’t think North Carolina law would offer the district west of Charlotte protection from lawsuits.

In a news release, the Freedom From Religion Foundation warned the Cleveland County School board its Ten Commandments idea would infringe upon rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment indicates government officials can’t make laws “respecting an establishment of religion.”

“The district can be sued for violating the Establishment Clause even if it is following North Carolina law,” Chris Line, staff attorney for the group that works to separate religion and government, said in the news release. “It would be a flagrant violation for the school board to require all of its schools to display the Ten Commandments.”

Cleveland County Schools didn’t respond to McClatchy News’ requests for comment on Tuesday.

During the Dec. 14 board meeting, board member Dena Green said she wanted school officials to get a lawyer’s input about the display idea to avoid the potential for costly backlash.

“I would think that the ACLU would really come down on us,” she said, according to video of the meeting.

Robert Queen, chair of the school board, said a proposal has been shared with a policy committee, WJZY reported on Monday. That committee is expected to make recommendations but doesn’t have a timeline, according to the TV station.