Liberty Counsel Gains Constitutional Freedoms for Florida School District

by | Jul 8, 2011 | Charisma Archive

Liberty CounselA Florida school district is no longer under the “reign of
terror” of the American Civil Liberties Union. After litigation
brought by Liberty Counsel, the ACLU and the Santa Rosa County School
District, located in Florida’s panhandle, have agreed to modify a
prior Consent Decree.

As a result of the settlement, the organization won back dozens of
constitutional freedoms for teachers, staff, students and members
of the community. Liberty Counsel is “an international nonprofit
litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing
religious freedom, the sanctity of life and the family.”

Students will once again be allowed to voluntarily pray, submit
religious answers in homework, and freely participate in private,
after-school, religious programs. Teachers will now be able to pray
at school during their break times, pray during school events in a
nonofficial capacity, attend and fully participate in baccalaureate
services, have a Bible on their desk, wear religious jewelry, assign
readings from the Bible to students when relevant to nonreligious
academic assignments and more. “God bless” is no longer
forbidden.

“We are pleased that freedom has been restored to Santa Rosa
County,” says Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean
of Liberty University School of Law. “From the beginning we
contended that this Consent Decree went too far. We did not rest
until we returned the constitutional rights stolen by the ACLU.”

The ACLU initially filed suit against the school district and
contained a Consent Decree, in which
a person or company agrees to take specific actions without admitting
fault or guilt for the situation that led to the lawsuit. The
district rejected Liberty Counsel’s offer to represent it pro bono,
so the organization eventually filed a direct suit against the
district to regain the constitutional rights taken away by the
Consent Decree.

For three years, the ACLU threatened people with contempt charges.
Liberty Counsel defended Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director
Robert Freedman against such charges, which could have incurred a
$5,000 fine, six months in jail and loss of their collective 70 years
of retirement benefits. Their alleged crime: a short blessing over a
meal.

The litigating organization also defended staff worker Michelle
Winkler against civil contempt charges—up to $30,000 in fines—after
her husband said a prayer in a neighboring county at a private event
to honor non-instructional staff.

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