Local schools would support display of 10 Commandments

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Religion is not a new idea in Pike County.

Four parochial schools use religion everyday in their classrooms, churches dot every corner and a daily Bible verse appears in the paper.

And even though some states would be shocked at the idea, local public schools still include religion in their morning rituals.

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At Goshen Elementary, students recite the Pledge of Allegiance, Principal Mike Bragg holds 60 seconds of silence over the intercom everyday and every teacher has a Gideon's Bible in the classroom.

Bragg even has a plaque of the Ten Commandments hanging in front of his desk.

&uot;It's part of our safety plan,&uot; he said.

&uot;If you ask the good Lord to go ahead of you and fight your battles, you're going to be okay.&uot;

A new amendment passed this week in the Alabama House sanctioned Bragg's opinion and may encourage educators around the state to do something Bragg sees as a no-brainer.

On Monday, the first day bills can pass in the House or the Senate, an amendment allowing public schools to post the Ten Commandments passed 89-0 after three hours of debate.

The Senate still needs to approve the amendment and it has to have a statewide vote to pass, but some say it is a step in the right direction.

&uot;It's a wonderful idea,&uot; Polly Laird said.

&uot;Although it comes from a Christian belief, it promotes good morals.&uot;

Laird is the principal of New Life Christian Academy and has first-hand experience with weaving religion into the classroom.

Realizing it is hard for public schools to do the same, she feels the display of this Mosaic Law is acceptable because it does not directly promote Jesus Christ.

Rather, she said, it teaches the basic principals upon which

America was founded.

&uot;If I were a parent, I would feel good knowing that something that promoted basic values-not to kill, not to steal-were posted where my child could see them,&uot; she said.

While legislators hope the display of the Ten Commandments will improve moral and academic excellence, as a teacher and principal in a parochial school, Laird does not see how merely posting them will make significant changes.

&uot;It takes a whole lot more to affect a child,&uot; she said.

&uot;I think it's a stretch to say it will change a student's conduct.&uot;

Bragg shares a different opinion.

&uot;Every child who comes into my office sees it,&uot; he said, pointing at the plaque hanging on his wall.

&uot;It most certainly has an impact on them.&uot;

However, what a person feels and what a person can do are sometimes two different things.

For example, when Judge Roy Moore erected a Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Judicial building, a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional, even though a good deal of Alabamians agreed with Moore.

&uot;Sometimes there is a huge difference in how you feel personally and what you are able or not able to do from a legal standpoint,&uot; Pike County Superintendent Mark Bazzell said.

Bazzell had not heard about the amendment and said he would need to hear the language of the amendment to say whether or not Pike County would participate, should the amendment pass.

&uot;If something did come out of the Legislature…school boards would need to ask their attorneys to look at the language and whether or not it would be in violation of the consent decrees we're under,&uot; Bazzell said.

Should the amendment become reality, legal counsel might prove to become imperative.

The amendment included language freeing the state of liability if the legislation is ever challenged in court.