HCCSC board to fight to keep religious ed program

Attorneys for the Huntington County Community School Corporation are preparing documents to fight a recommendation made by a federal judge that could stop the practice of offering a weekday religious education program to local elementary school students.

The school corporation's move is in response to a case filed in United States District Court on Nov. 12 by the mother of an 8-year-old Horace Mann Elementary student, who says offering the "By The Book" Bible trailer program on public school grounds is unconstitutional. The mother is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

On Feb. 3, U.S. Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey of the Northern District of Indiana recommended the mother's "motion for preliminary injunction be granted and that the school corporation's motion to dismiss be denied."
The school corporation was given 10 days from Feb. 3 to file an objection, which HCCSC will do later this week, says Joe Wiley, one of the attorneys representing the corporation. Once that is completed, the mother will have 10 days to respond to the corporation's objections.

Correspondence from both sides will again be reviewed by Cosbey, who will pass his findings on to U.S. Magistrate Judge James Moody of the 7th District Court of Appeals.

"He'll consider the objections and make a recommendation to Judge Moody," who can modify, alter or accept the information as is," Wiley says.
In the meantime, the religious education program continues.

"It is still operating right now, but we're not sure for how long," says Jim Guhl, president of the Associated Churches of Huntington County, which has offered the program to the county's elementary school students for more than 50 years.

The "By The Book" program will continue "until we get a ruling from the judge. We're expecting the decision from the judge any day."

The HCCSC Board of Trustees appreciates the community's support throughout the process, Board President Kevin Patrick said during Monday night's school board meeting.

"On behalf of the board, administration, teachers and staff, we would like to thank our entire community for the thoughts and prayers and words of encouragement which will never be forgotten," Patrick read from a prepared statement. "I would also like to publicly thank our attorneys Mrs. (Linda) Polley and Mr. Wiley, who have and will continue to work vigorously to represent our case in the court system."

Citing President John F. Kennedy, Patrick read from the statement that "In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it," he continued.
"It is in this spirit that the Huntington County Community School Corporation will move forward," Patrick read from his statement. "As Mr. Wiley previously stated, we will file this week a formal objection" to Cosbey's recommendations submitted Feb. 3.