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School Loses Attempt to Dismiss Ten Commandments Case

A federal judge has rejected a motion to dismiss in the lawsuit filed in Giles County, VA over the posting of the Ten Commandments in a public school there — and also rejected the attempt by the school board to force the plaintiffs to reveal their names.

U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski said there are too many unknown facts about the case to throw it out now for legal reasons.

“Facts matter,” the judge said. “You can’t just apply a one-size-fits-all because the facts are very different” in prior cases involving the Ten Commandments.

The ruling is a setback for the Giles County School Board, which was sued in September for a display of the Ten Commandments in Narrows High School. A student at the school contends in the lawsuit that the board’s action amounted to a governmental endorsement of religion – which is prohibited by the First Amendment.

As for the identity of the student, Urbanski gave lawyers 14 days to work out the details of a protective order sought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit.

The school board is represented by Liberty Counsel, which demanded that the student who filed the complaint be identified publicly. As I wrote earlier, there is one and only one reason for such a demand — the hope that bullying and intimidation by others in the community would force them to drop the suit. In other words, thuggery in defense of Christian privilege.

Comments

  1. MikeMa says

    With the dismissal thwarted and the bullying tactic recognized and addressed, a sane legal team might wish to settle. I do hope the school tax christians are paying attention to what this fiasco will cost them.

  2. Michael Heath says

    This is one of the first cases I’ve encountered administrated by an Obama nominee to the court. We can predict conservatives will view such cases as political opportunities to further their assertions that President Obama hates America and American values.

  3. anandine says

    Ed wrote: there is one and only one reason for such a demand — the hope that bullying and intimidation by others in the community would force them to drop the suit.

    I’m a little uncomfortable with the similarity between this and the cases in Washington and California where the names of signers of petitions to outlaw gay marriage were made public. The anti-gay-marriage crowd used exactly this argument, that the only reason for making the names public was to allow gays to harass them.

    If they were wrong then, then we are wrong now. If we are right, then they are right, too. In fact, signing on to a lawsuit may be a stronger reason to make names public than signing a petition.

    There is also the issue of a defendant in a law suit being able to confront his accusers, though I realize that this is not directly relevant until the trial starts.

  4. eric says

    Michael Heath: We can predict conservatives will view such cases as political opportunities to further their assertions that President Obama hates America and American values.

    You are probably right, but its just an excuse. As we saw after Dover, they are happy to invoke the No True Scotsman argument if a judge rules the ‘wrong’ way, regardless of that judges’ background.

    ***

    Anandine @3: I’m a little uncomfortable with the similarity between this and the cases in Washington and California where the names of signers of petitions to outlaw gay marriage were made public.

    The plaintiff in this court case is under age; voters signing a petition presumably aren’t (because then they couldn’t be voters). The law generally gives underage petitioners a lot more anonymity.

    Here’s a second, much weaker, argument which might apply too…but I’d be fine if someone with more knowledge corrected me: in the court case, IANAL but AFAIK the accused will have the right to confront their accuser. And the judge will know who it is. What’s prevented is (the defense) making the accuser’s ID open to people not involved in the case. However in the petition case, the citizens/public are directly impacted by the petition. The public IS the “accused” or “defense” in the case of the petition. So they have a right to know whe wants a change in the law.

  5. Chris from Europe says

    I would add that these cases aren’t exactly equivalent. In this case a student’s rights were violated by the government. The student is a victim and, of course, didn’t decide to have his or her rights violated. In the other case you have people who should have known that if they signed a public petition, their names would be known. There isn’t any reason to believe their rights would have been threatened by same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships.

    If NOM tricked them about being able to keep the names secret, they should sue NOM or the campaign organization.

  6. abb3w says

    eric:

    I’d be fine if someone with more knowledge corrected me: in the court case, IANAL but AFAIK the accused will have the right to confront their accuser

    I also am not a lawyer, but the topic came up in the Fark thread, and one of the regulars who evidently is a lawyer agreed with the assorted amateurs suggesting the sixth amendment only specifies that for criminal cases, and pointed to FRCP 5.2(e).

  7. fastlane says

    In addition to the points already made, there is one other, very strong, IMO, case to be made for keeping the name of the plaintiff secret. Precedent. Based on the history of similar cases, one can all but guarantee that the plaintiff will be subject to harassment, intimidation, and threats.

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