MARION, Ohio — A school board in Ohio has voted unanimously not to restore a nearly 60-year-old plaque of the Ten Commandments that was removed from a local high school last year following a complaint.
The Marion City Schools Board agreed on Monday to indefinitely “loan” the plaque to the Marion County Historical Society for display instead of its customary location at Harding High School.
The Ten Commandments display had been donated to the school by the class of 1956, and has been subsequently hanging in the hallway for decades next to the Preamble to the United States Constitution. But last year, an anonymous parent complained that the plaque violated the “separation of church and state” and threatened to call the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the matter.
Harding Principal Kirk Koennecke decided to take down the plaque, which was then relocated to the office of Superintendent Gary Barber. However, the removal generated controversy and a number of students began to petition the board to put the display back up.
“Taking down the Ten Commandments has caused more problems than leaving them up,” said Harding Herald Editor Cheyenne Abrams in December.
Barber reached an agreement with students and parents to discuss a compromise as to where the plaque would be displayed next. But some continued to fight to keep it at Harding High School, stating that it was “a slap in the face” to the class of 1956.
This week, a number of area residents spoke up in support of the plaque prior to the board’s vote.
“It was a gift and it was a very nice gift, and I would like to see it stay,” 1956 graduate Bob McQuiston told those gathered, according to the Marion Star.
“I’m ashamed of Marion City Schools right now,” stated parent Sheri Cook.
“What’s so dangerous about the Ten Commandments?” resident Phillip Bates asked.
Student Anthony Miller presented the board with the signatures that had been collected for his petition to allow the plaque to stay.
But as the board had been advised by legal counsel not to restore the plaque, members unanimously voted to loan it to the historical society and not restore it to the hallways of Harding High School. Some members said that they were people of faith and that the decision presented an internal conflict for them. Board President Steve Williams told those gathered that he personally has the Ten Commandments hanging up at his house.
“The board approves and ratifies the removal of the plaque from the display at Harding High School, accepts the superintendent’s recommendations, and approves and directs that: The board president execute the loan agreement with the Marion County Historical Society, and the Ten Commandments plaque be delivered to the Marion County Historical Society, which shall display the plaque,” the agreed upon motion read.
Gary Robinson, class of 1966, had told the board last month that when he was a student nearly 50 years ago, it was considered honorable to follow the moral principles in Scripture.
“When I think back on my school days and how things used to be, I remember that being a Christian and believing in the Bible was considered a good thing,” he said. “If [the plaque] hadn’t been taken down by the complaint of one parent, it would probably have been up for another 59 years.”
“[T]he only mention of God or Christ in the schools are the students using them cursing,” lamented petition signee Judd Scott. “[G]ood moral and ethical counseling in the schools and the discipline by the school is missing altogether.”