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Judge Suggests Trimming Ten Commandments to Six

Proposal could provide a compromise to First Amendment case at a Virginia public high school.

A federal judge in Virginia has proposed that two parties involved in a dispute over the display of the Ten Commandments at a public high school should consider modifying the display by removing the four Commandments that mention God.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia sued the Giles County School Board on behalf of a student over a Ten Commandments display at Narrows High School, arguing that it violated the First Amendment's protection against endorsement of religion. The school board said the Commandments were part of a larger display of historical documents and therefore not religious.

The Commandments were already removed once from the school, but the school board voted 3-2 last summer to reinstall them after pressure from the community—a move that the ACLU argued was religion-based.

U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski sent the case into mediation this week. "If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn't it make sense for Giles County to say, ‘Let's go back and just post the bottom six [commandments]?'" Urbanski said during the hearing.

Giles County hopes to resolve the issue without a trial, as it could face huge legal costs if the ACLU wins. Both sides will meet with Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou for mediation sessions in the coming weeks, The Roanoke Times reported.

Christianity Today has covered many Ten Commandments cases in the past, including extended coverage of the landmark case in Alabama. A 2005 editorial also highlighted the Supreme Court's inconsistent stance on the display of the Ten Commandments.

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