Constitutional issues are low-hanging fruit in a small southern town. Most residents are churchgoers, and most know each others' business, and many are happy to pontificate about what others should and should not be doing. As a result, there is a high degree of complicity when it comes to violations of church-state separation.
Exhibit A: the Giles County School Board. In December, the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a request to the GCS Superintendent asking that framed copies of the 10 Commandments be removed from schools, as the displays violate the establishment clause and clear Supreme Court precedent. The Superintendent (reportedly on advice of counsel) complied. Yay, FFRF! Yay, Superintendent!
Oops. There must have been some sermonizing over this, because about 200 outraged citizens and preachers showed up at last week's School Board meeting and demanded that the decalogue be rehung. The School Board, too cowardly to make an unpopular decision, voted unanimously to hang them right back up.
The Bill of Rights is designed to protect individuals from majority rule. No matter how many zealots attend a school board meeting, it is the sworn duty of government officials to uphold the Constitution and protect the minority on matters of race, gender and religion.
In my opinion, the school board members just committed Giles County to a huge bill: not only is the County going to have to defend itself in slam-dunk lawsuits threatened by FFRF and the ACLU, they will likely have to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys fees in any such suits because of their blatant disregard of bedrock constitutional protections and clear precedent. FFRF told them as much in a follow-up letter accessible here, adding that the school board members could be held personally liable too.
On a positive note, in researching this today I ran across a pretty cool organization: The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Check out this awesome list, "Top 5 Myths of the Separation of Church and State." After reading some outrageously ignorant evangelicals' comments on this news item, it was heartening to discover this page.