In today’s Marion Star there is an article about a 10 Commandments plaque hanging in the Marion Harding High School. Principal Kirk Koennecke received complaints about the plaque, that clearly doesn’t belong in a public school, and decided to do the right thing and removed it. I think Marion City School district has a principal it can be proud of in that he knew that there is no way the district could win a court case over this plaque if the district were to be sued.
Now comes the inevitable push back from religious students and parents that do not know the legalities of displaying the 10 Commandments in a public school. The courts have never upheld the right to display them in a public school but instead have consistently held that the 10 Commandments do not belong in a public school.
Notice I keep saying public school. That makes all the difference in the world. All children are forced to go to school and for those that cannot afford a private or religious school or just choose the public school system; they should not be subjected to the majority’s religion.
That is what religious freedom is about. It is not about being able to display your religion on public buildings for all to see, but rather it is about not being made to feel you are an outsider by the school administration or other students because your religion is different from theirs or you have no religion at all. Also this religious display makes a public statement that the school administration endorses the particular religion represented by the display. This goes against the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.
Superintendent Barber says he and the students will be working with faith-based ministers and others in the community in deciding an appropriate home for the plaque. I hope he includes some secular voices in those discussions. As president of Mid Ohio Atheists Inc., dedicated to supporting the separation of state and church and the rights of atheists, I would gladly work with the Superintendent in deciding where the display should be placed.