New Paris, USA - Officials at a northern Indiana school district voted to end an elementary school Bible class after their lawyer told them they were bound to lose a lawsuit over its constitutionality.
"The law is quite clear: Religious instruction for elementary school students on school grounds during the school day is not constitutionally permitted," said Fairfield Community Schools attorney Tim Shelly.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued the district in federal court on behalf of a New Paris Elementary School first-grader and his mother. The suit alleged the boy was left unsupervised in the hallway when his mother opted him out of the weekly 20-minute Bible class. He later was sent to the school library.
The suit said the boy was being deprived of educational instruction during the Bible class and that the class violated the First Amendment.
Shelly warned board members that the district could be forced to pay $100,000 to $800,000 when it inevitably lost. Board members voted 6-0 last week to immediately end the Bible class, drawing boos from a crowd of students, parents and community members who had shown up to speak in support of the program.
Shelly did explain to officials that there were ways to hold a Bible class legally, such as allowing release time during the day where students travel off school grounds, or to have the class at the school but after school hours. But he said the district would have to offer the same opportunity to various religious organizations.