By Jon Heim
Parents engaged in battle with a West Virginia school system that for decades allowed Bible classes in elementary and middle schools won a round in a federal appeals court this week, setting the stage for a renewed legal tussle.
The ruling means that the case will be sent back to a district court and that the fate of the suspended Bible in the Schools program in the public school system of Mercer County could be resolved.
“These families can get justice,” said Patrick Elliott, co-counsel with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that joined parents in the lawsuit and works on issues concerning the separation of church and state. “They can get these classes stopped for once and for all. To finally get the school district to comply with the law would be a resounding victory.”
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel said Senior District Judge David A. Faber of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia had erred in dismissing the challenge to the Bible in the Schools program brought by two parents and their children. In their suit against the school system, the parents argued that the classes violated the establishment clause of the Constitution, which restricts the government from favoring any religion.
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