MULDROW -- It was standing room only in the spacious Muldrow Public Schools cafeteria as hundreds of area residents crowded into a School Board meeting Monday to discuss the Ten Commandments plaques posted in each classroom for two decades.
The plaques, which had been donated to the district in the early 1990s, were removed by Monday.
Many attendees arrived in vehicles upon which Christian slogans were written or posted. Many wore clothing proclaiming their religious beliefs. Many teens attended, wearing black "Don't Quit for Christ" T-shirts. Several elderly attendees clutched Bibles. Attendees' ages ranged from infant through senior citizen.
Muldrow First Assembly of God Senior Pastor Shawn Money, a representative of the Christian Muldrow Ministry Alliance, told school officials, "We understand the last two weeks have been very difficult for you. We support you. We're praying for you. ... We know that in 1980 the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to have the Ten Commandments in public schools for religious purposes. ... We disagree."
Many audience members called out "amens."
Money said the many Christians in attendance do believe the Ten Commandments have a place in public classrooms and that they are a foundation of our nation. He said the attendees are grateful the Commandments had been in the school for 20 years and hoped they would be again.
In an essay Money wrote and read, "I am the Ten Commandments," he stated that they were written first by God, passed down through generations and would endure until the end of time. The Ten Commandments, Money said, are the voice of morality and "the thread of the fabric that has held many nations together."
When he finished, the crowd shouted loud "amens" and gave Money a lengthy standing ovation.
When Board President Scott Chambers called for board discussion, there was none.
School attorney Jerry Richardson of Tulsa said he was not going to try to change the attendees' minds, nor would the school board want him to try.
"They wish the Ten Commandments could remain in the classrooms. Unfortunately, it is my unpleasant job to tell you the situation is otherwise," Richardson said.
The 1980 legal case cited by Money stemmed from a Kentucky law that mandated the placement of the Ten Commandments in public schools, Richardson said. The law was challenged and the lawsuit made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which not only ruled that it was unconstitutional, but the high court also stated that the Constitution guarantees not only freedom of religion but also freedom from religion, Richardson said.
Richardson told the crowd that early this month, the district had received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatening a lawsuit if the plaques were not removed. An unnamed Muldrow student had complained to the organization that the commandments were posted in every classroom.
A notice on the foundation's website states: "'We are pleased the school administration has removed the Ten Commandments in compliance with the Constitution. This is settled law. Public schools cannot advance or endorse religion,' said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. She added, 'We hope the board will honor thy constitution and heed the advice of its attorney rather than to acquiesce to pressure from a religious mob.'"
The hundreds present at Monday's board meeting were calm and respectful, even applauding Richardson after he delivered news many would have preferred not to hear.
Chambers' voice choked as he told the audience the board wished it had another alternative, but removed the plaques rather than spend taxpayer money for costly legal fees that would be incurred fighting to keep them.
Two parents who did not identify themselves asked the board what rights their children had regarding religious expression.
Richardson told them their children also enjoyed freedom of speech and could wear and post anything that did not violate school policy. If the school permits nonreligious expressions, it cannot discriminate against religious expressions by the students. However, he said, the students cannot post such expressions on school property because that would be interpreted as school- or state-sponsored expression.
To a mother who asked if the students could post the Ten Commandments on their lockers, Superintendent Ron Flanagan responded that the district does not allow locker postings.
After the meeting, several attendees, not all of them local, expressed dismay at the removal of the religious plaques.
Freddie Gauntt of Fort Gibson said he attended "to help stand up for our beliefs in God."
He asked why one or two persons can change things in a Democratic society.
"It should have gone to a vote of the community. It upsets me that the federal government has a set of guidelines that are not godly in nature," Gauntt said.
An elderly lifelong Muldrow resident who declined to give her name said she attended the meeting because she believes in God and the commandments.
A Muldrow mother, Glenna Middleton, said she attended to support her eighth-grade daughter.
"My kid stood in prayer with her friends all week. This is a pivotal point in the community, and it is wrong that 10 people in there can change things," Middleton said.
Middleton's daughter, Taylor Middleton, said, "I think it's wrong, and we should keep it in our school. It's what we believe."
GOPUSA Editor's Note: The student who made this complaint has identified himself now that he has successfully forced the school district to comply with his wishes.
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