MARION, Ohio (Christian Examiner) – Earlier this month a team of high school students broke a story about a student at their school who is on strike becuase a plaque with the Ten Commandments -- a gift from the 1953 graduating class of Harding High School in Marion, Ohio -- was removed in August from the hallway where it has been showcased for over 60 years.
Next to the Ten Commandments was the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, another significant display because in a school named after a former U.S. president – Warren G. Harding. It has as its symbol an eagle named Warren G. and as its mascot, "The Presidents." Patriotism runs high at the school.
So, apparently, does the faith of a freshman, Anthony Miller.
When he heard the Ten Commandments plaque was permanently removed, he went on strike.
"I am attending class because by law I have to attend class, but I am refusing to participate," Miller said in an article in the Marion Star local newspaper. "I'm aware of the consequences, but I would like to get my point across."
His point is the Ten Commandments are not just religious tenets, but good moral guidelines for all students to follow.
Marion City Schools Superintendent Gary Barber said he had watched other school districts in Ohio face legal challenges and wanted "to make sure that resources are directly aligned to our district's mission and vision -- and that being to improve academic achievement, to improve our district culture, communication within our district and to make sure we are using tax dollars wisely," Barber said, according to a mid-December Marion Star report.
The issue has been raised before, and religious liberty groups like Alliance Defending Freedom have responded by filing lawsuits and developing materials to correct misinformation that is being spread to schools.
"For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other radical anti-Christian groups have been on a mission to eliminate public expression of our nation's faith and heritage," according to the website AllianceDefendingFreedom.org, which has downloadable resources for students and their parents.
"By influencing the government, filing lawsuits, and spreading the myth of the so-called 'separation of church and state,' the opposition has been successful at forcing its leftist agenda on Americans," the website continues. "Their targeted attacks on religious liberty are more serious and widespread than you may realize. In courtrooms and schoolrooms, offices and shops, public buildings and even churches – those who believe in God are increasingly threatened, punished, and silenced."
Student journalists Shanna Morris, Cheyenne Abrams and Sydney Cook broke the story in the "Harding Herald" student newspaper Dec. 5.
Miller and the student journalists are circulating a petition for the plaque to be returned to its longtime position.
"I don't care about my grades now," Miller said. "I told the principal, until there is an agreement reached, I will not participate in any Harding-related activities, any Marion City Schools-related activities. Sports, choir, classes, whatever. I won't even wear my Harding Marching Band shirt."
Principal Kirk Koennecke made the decision to take down the plaque after talking with the school district, Barber said, adding that "several people" had questioned the plaque's presence at the school, even though it had been a gift.
"Our responsibility, when we're challenged, is we do what's in line with the law," he said to the local newspaper.
Koennecke said he plans to talk on Jan. 6 with Miller and other students interested in the issue to discuss alternative locations for the plaque. Also to be included in that discussion: community faith leaders and interested others.