A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a prominent secularist group against an elective Bible course that has been offered by a West Virginia school district since 1939.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed the suit against Mercer County Schools in January for offering a program called "Bible in the Schools," an elective course that had been available on a weekly basis in over a dozen elementary schools and three middle schools.
In May, the Mercer County Board of Education voted to halt the program for at least one year, pending review and possible revision of the curriculum.
On Tuesday, District Court Judge David A. Faber dismissed the lawsuit, arguing that there is currently no case as the district had suspended the program.
"Indeed, whether or not this court were to undergo an (albeit incomplete) factual analysis of the past BITS program, defendants might remain capable of developing, adopting, and teaching a new BITS curriculum in conformity with Establishment Clause jurisprudence," the judge wrote, as reported by The Christian Post.
"As a result, the clouded future of BITS classes in Mercer County would hang over the heads of the Does regardless of the court's substantive review," he continued.
The judge indicated that the court may grant a preliminary injunction if the program returns and there is a violation of the constitution.
Faber further noted that "Supreme Court jurisprudence has by no means established an absolute bar to the Bible being taught and studied in the public school system."
The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of local residents whose children were attending schools where the Bible class was offered, alleges that the elective Bible course "advances and endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students."
One of the plaintiffs expressed concern that her daughter could be ostracized by not joining the program because most students choose to attend the classes.
The parent lamented that her only choices were to expose her child to Christianity against her will or subject her to the risk of ostracism.
Another plaintiff had reportedly moved her daughter out of the school system because other students were taunting her about the matter.
According to Christian News Network, the elective Bible course was funded by a non-profit organization, and the district has required schools to offer an alternative for students who did not want to take part in the program.
First Liberty Institute, which represented the school district, hailed the district court ruling, while the FFRF expressed plans to appeal the decision.