A West Virginia school district is pushing back against an atheist-led federal lawsuit to dismantle optional Bible classes that have been offered since 1939, filing a official motion to dismiss the complaint.
First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal firm that represents Mercer County Schools, filed the motion last week, asking the court to throw out claims from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, that the optional course is unconstitutional, The Christian Post reported.
The legal firm said that the case, which hinges on complaints from an unnamed mother and daughter, does not stand muster and should be derailed, noting, among other elements of the lawsuit, that the complaint doesn’t focus on the contents of the Bible class and, instead, takes aim at the mere existence of the elective course.
“Plaintiffs’ Complaint does not attack the particular curriculum of the Bible classes offering in Mercer County Schools,” the motion to dismiss reads. “Instead, it attacks the fact that any such classes, regardless of specific curriculum, exist. This does not state a cognizable legal claim, and flies in the face of decades of precedent. This requires dismissal with prejudice.”
The document also goes on to state that Mercy County has a “constitutional right to offer optional Bible classes in public schools for the benefit of the many students who are interested in receiving Bible instruction,” alleging that the lawsuit unduly restricts and hampers that right.
First Liberty attorneys also told WVTA-TV that the lawsuit doesn’t have legal standing because the classes don’t start until the first grade (the complainant’s daughter is reportedly in kindergarten and is not yet old enough to enroll or be impacted by the course); additionally, the program isn’t at every school in the county.
As Faithwire previously reported, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the West Virginia school district in January, seeking to stop the elective “Bible in the Schools” courses, labeling them “egregiously unconstitutional.”
“Bible indoctrination classes have been taught in Mercer County Schools for more than 75 years,” read a press release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “Between 1939 and 1985, the bible classes were designed, financed, administered and staffed by a small group of Mercer County citizens.”
The text continued, “Following complaints by parents of eight students in 1985, the Mercer County schools took over the instruction in 1986, claiming to follow nine guidelines from the Office of the Attorney General.”
The atheist group argues that the curriculum — which is reportedly offered starting in first grade and is in 15 elementary schools, three middle schools and one intermediate school — is similar to what one would encounter in Sunday school; the group said the content is geared toward pushing kids to look favorably at the Christian Bible.
But while the Freedom From Religion Foundation essentially accused the school district of indoctrination and pro-Christian bias, the Bible in the Schools website paints a different picture, saying that the courts have ruled the Bible can be taught in schools, so long as the purpose of that instruction isn’t to promote religion and is, instead, for the educational benefit of children.
“The impact of the Bible on the American culture merits for this book far greater attention than is merited by any other book,” the website reads. “To cut our children off from the Bible is to cut them off from their cultural roots. This cannot be said for any other single book.”
It’s unclear what will happen next, though it appears Mercer County Schools won’t be backing down easily.
(H/T: The Christian Post)
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