A judge declined to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a display of the Ten Commandments in a Giles County school Monday, setting the stage for a long legal battle.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski said there are too many unknown facts about the case to immediately throw it out for legal reasons.
"Facts matter, so how can I grant a motion to dismiss?" the judge said. "You can't just apply a one-size-fits-all because the facts are very different" in prior court cases involving the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
The ruling is a setback for the Giles County School Board, which had sought a quick end to a lawsuit filed in September over a display of the Ten Commandments in Narrows High School.
An unnamed student at the school contends the school board's vote to allow the framed document on a hallway wall amounts to a governmental endorsement of religion that is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
Urbanski delayed ruling on a second issue -- whether the student and a parent who joined in the lawsuit can remain anonymous -- while lawyers try to work out an agreement.
Why anonymous? Well, because of some of the loving Christians on the board and in the community:
The judge was referring to a comment made by supervisors Chairman Eric Gentry during a school board public hearing, that Giles County "won't let an anonymous coward tell us how to run our business."
In seeking the protective order, ACLU lawyer Rebecca Glenberg cited a number of other comments made either during public hearings or in heated emails to her organization and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which also represents the plaintiffs.
"Keep up the good work, you'll have a special place in Hell," one person wrote. Said another: "Sure sounds like non-Christians ought to move out of Giles County before things get ugly over there."
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