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Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 12:21 GMT
Ten Commandments schools back down
The Columbine gun attack prompted the display of the Ten Commandments

An education authority in California has backed down over its plans to display the Ten Commandments in schools - after it was sued by a civil liberties group.

The American Civil Liberties Union has taken legal action against the Val Verde school authorities in Riverside County, Santa Ana, arguing that posting up the Ten Commandments represented the promotion of religion by the government.

"Simply put, government may teach about religion, but may not preach religion," said David Friedman, representing the ACLU.

The school district is one of a number of authorities in the United States wanting to display the Ten Commandments - and another three lawsuits are pending in Kentucky, including the Harlan County school district.

Respecting other faiths

Legislation passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year seeks to allow schools to put the commandments on display - but the proposal has still to be voted on by the Senate.

But facing an expensive law-suit, which claims that the display of the Ten Commandments in schools is in breach of a 1980 Supreme Court ruling, the Val Verde education board has withdrawn its plans.

The school district had wanted to show the Ten Commandments as a response to the school shootings, including the gun attack on Columbine High in Colorado.

But a representative of the ACLU in Southern California says that improving behaviour should not mean promoting one particular set of religious beliefs.

"I think we can all agree our kids need safe schools to learn. But we need to teach our children to respect all people, not just people of their own faith," said Michael Fleming.
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