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West Virginia School District Sued For Teaching Bible

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A mother in West Virginia has filed a lawsuit against a West Virginia school district to put a stop to a weekly Bible class.

The unnamed woman is backed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and accuses the Mercer County Schools in West Virginia of promoting religion in public schools.

The bible program's stated goals are to develop a "positive attitude" toward biblical literature, "understanding the importance of the Ten Commandments," and "harmonizing the four gospel accounts of the last days of Jesus," according to an FFRF press release.

"The U.S. Supreme Court ruled such religious instruction unconstitutional more than 65 years ago, in the landmark McCollum v. Board of Education. It's unacceptable that such clearly unconstitutional indoctrination is still being conducted in any public schools," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The program is privately-funded and students are not forced to attend. However, the classes are taught during school hours.

And some students claim they were coerced to participate.

Elizabeth Deal told CBS News her daughter was bullied into taking the class.

"They taunted her about it. They told her that she was going to hell, that I was going to hell, that her father was going to hell," Deal said.

Deal eventually moved her daughter out of the school system.

"If you want them to have a religious education, that burden’s on you. That burden should not be on the school system," she said.

In a statement to CBS News, Mercer County Schools said it has the right to teach the bible for its "literary and historic qualities."

Whether or not the bible is actually being taught that way will be up to the courts to decide.

"The public school would just have to ensure that it really did have a secular purpose," said Nelson Tebbe, a professor of constitutional law and religious freedom at Brooklyn Law School. "But because this program and programs like it are structured just around the Bible, courts will be skeptical as to whether they really have that kind of neutral impact."

Sources: CBS News, Freedom From Religion Foundation / Photo credit: Dave Bullock via Wikimedia Commons

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