Bible program suspended in West Virginia

Mercer County Schools took action in response to FFRF’s lawsuit

A school district in West Virginia has suspended its “Bible in the Schools” classes next school year following FFRF’s lawsuit against its egregiously unconstitutional program.

FFRF, along with two parents of young children, brought the case earlier this year against Mercer County Schools. The lawsuit has received national attention, including a segment on “CBS This Morning” and coverage in the Washington Post.

Members of the Mercer County Board of Education approved the suspension at their regular meeting on May 23. The “Bible in the Schools” program, which is offered in 15 elementary schools and three middle schools, is financed by donations, but administered by the school system.

Mercer County Schools Superintendent Deborah Akers announced that she wants to include “community members and religious leaders” in reviewing the class and recommended suspending the classes until the review was completed.

FFRF is pleased at this first step in addressing long-standing violations of the constitutional rights of children and parents. Starting this fall, it appears that students will receive an appropriate education free from religious instruction within the Mercer County public schools system.

Contending that the bible classes are not legally defensible, FFRF will continue to pursue all legal remedies available against the school system to ensure compliance with the First Amendment.

“The Supreme Court has spoken directly on this type of public school indoctrination and has ruled that public schools may not engage in it,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“Religion in schools builds walls between children and leads to ostracism of minorities — as experienced by our plaintiff Elizabeth Deal, who had to remove her child from the school.”

Deal said she joined the suit because she believes in the separation of church and state.

“When something is wrong,” she told the Washington Post, “you have to stand up against it.”

FFRF’s legal complaint lists examples of the proselytizing curriculum. Lesson 2 promotes creationism by claiming humans and dinosaurs co-existed. Students are asked to “picture Adam being able to crawl up on the back of a dinosaur! He and Eve could have their own personal water slide! Wouldn’t that be so wild!”

Lynne White, a former School Board member and mother of two sons who went to Mercer schools, told the Washington Post that the class was obviously an Establishment Clause violation.

“As a person of faith myself, I don’t see any problem with having an after-school bible program,” she said. “But to me this seems a pretty clear violation of the Constitution.”
FFRF and the parent plaintiffs are continuing with the case. The court will hear arguments from both sides on June 19.

FFRF v. Mercer County Board of Education (Case# 1:17-cv-00642) was filed in the U.S.

District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia before Judge David A. Faber.

Freedom From Religion Foundation