Thursday, May 10, 2012
Editorial: Thou shalt seek mediation
Giles County taxpayers should hope for successful mediation in the Ten Commandments suit.
From the RoundTable blog
Read the latest entries
The Giles County School Board on Monday defended hanging the Ten Commandments in schools. Judge Michael Urbanski ordered mediation in hopes that county schools and the student who sued them might find reasonable common ground and avoid further litigation.
This might be the last chance for the board to set things right before the case caroms out of control and the price tag rises to devastating levels for a small, rural county.
Liberty Counsel represents the school board in the case, and the American Civil Liberties Union represents the student who prefers public education free from government-imposed religion.
Perhaps inspired by all of the Bible talk, Urbanski pulled his best King Solomon impression. He suggested a possible compromise might be to post the commandments without the four that relate most explicitly to worship of the Judeo-Christian deity.
We suspect splitting the baby that way would satisfy few people.
The school board used historic documents to camouflage the commandments, but not the religious intent. Public hearings after the school board had initially removed the commandments had the tenor of revivals.
Whiting out almost half of them would defeat the point.
The tougher sell might be to the student who sued. Posting just the secular commandments and identifying them as a portion of the biblical 10 would still push the boundaries of impermissible government endorsement of a particular faith tradition.
Yet some other mutually satisfactory solution could emerge from a calm, mediated conversation.
There is no harm in trying to find it.
County taxpayers, especially, have a keen interest in fruitful mediation. For some people, this is about riding a lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to return religion to public schools.
They hope the top court, with its conservative majority and nine Judeo-Christian justices, would manufacture a new interpretation of the First Amendment more amenable to mixing church and state.
If the case does advance and the school board loses, it could face a significant legal bill.
The courts could order the county to pay the plaintiff's legal costs. In another Ten Commandments case a few years back, that sort of order cost residents of two Kentucky counties almost half a million dollars.
Liberty Counsel might accept publicity and pursuit of an agenda as payment, but the ACLU would deserve reimbursement for having to undo a government violation of the Constitution.