The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed against a West Virginia county for offering Bible classes in its middle and elementary schools.
On Monday, the Fourth Circuit sided with parent Elizabeth Deal, who sued on behalf of her daughter to stop the county from allowing the “Bible in Schools” program to be taught in Mercer County, a program that had been in county schools for nearly 80 years before it was suspended last year.
The elective program provided 30 minutes of weekly Bible instruction for elementary school students and 45 minutes for middle school students “as a part of the regular school day,” according to the court’s ruling. The county itself had administered the BITS program and designed its curriculum for “specially employed BITS teachers” since 1986.
The curriculum reportedly included lessons on the crucifixion, the Ten Commandments, Moses and other elements of the Christian belief. Although administered by the school board, the program was privately funded through a nonprofit organization called Bluefield Bible Study Fund.
The appeals court noted that while the program was “ostensibly voluntary,” because parents were required to return a permission slip to allow their child to attend, nearly every student participated.
As for Deal, she is agnostic and wouldn’t allow her daughter, Jessica, to participate in the class because she wanted her daughter to learn about multiple religions and make her own religious decisions.
According to the court ruling, Jessica was made to sit in the “coatroom area” in the back of the classroom during the BITS teaching.
After the mother complained, Jessica was then sent to another classroom, the school library or the computer lab during the BITS teachings. Meanwhile, the “county never offered any alternative instruction to Jessica during the BITS program.” In addition, Deal claims her daughter faced harassment from other students because she did not participate in the program.
Ultimately, Deal decided it was best to send Jessica to school in another school district that doesn’t have the BITS program.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith