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A West Virginia School district has agreed to pay $225,000 to end a lawsuit filed by a prominent atheist group over the district's former elective Bible class.
As reported by The Christian Post, Mercer County Schools agreed to a settlement with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in a lawsuit that began in January 2017 when the FFRF sued the school district over its Bible in the Schools program. The Bible in the Schools program was first started at Bluefield High School in 1939 and eventually spread to other schools across the county.
"We are pleased that this violation involving the illegal proselytizing of youngsters has come to a mutual resolution," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. "But it should not take a lawsuit and years of effort to stop blatantly unconstitutional school programs."
The FFRF filed the lawsuit against Mercer County on behalf of Elizabeth Deal, who claimed that her daughter was ostracized for refusing to take the elective Bible class.
"This program advances and endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students," the lawsuit reads.
"Forcing Jane Doe to choose between putting her child in a Bible study class or subjecting her child to the risk of ostracism by opting out of the program violates the rights of conscience of Jane and Jamie Doe and therefore their First Amendment rights."
In November 2017, however, U.S. District Court Judge David A. Faber threw out FFRF's lawsuit claiming that the school was considering possible revisions to the Bible course curriculum.
That ruling, however, was overturned by a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in December 2018, sending the case back to a lower court.
"In sum, the County has not carried its burden of showing that subsequent events make it 'absolutely clear' that the suspended version of the BITS program will not return in identical or materially indistinguishable form," the panel said in their ruling.
"Appellants' current claims are therefore not moot. Of course, this does not prevent the district court from addressing mootness in the future if presented with that issue," they added.
A month later, in January 2019, Mercer County's board of education passed a resolution to end the elective Bible course instead of revising it.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Palidachan
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.