A San Antonio man had decided not to sue the Midlothian ISD over two plaques with religious language hanging on the walls of two elementary schools.
Patrick Greene decided to drop the lawsuit after he said he recently spoke with a friend and former attorney, who Greene said supported his position against the plaques, but didn't think Greene's lawsuit would succeed.
“He told me that since I do not physically live in Midlothian, my lawsuit would be thrown out of court for lack of legal standing,” Greene wrote in an email on Sunday. “Therefore, I will not proceed in this matter.”
This is good news for the Midlothian residents who have been encouraging trustees to keep the plaques in place at Longbranch and Mt. Peak elementary schools.
“This news is truly an answer to prayer,” Justin Coffman wrote in an email Monday. Coffman is a children's minister at Harvest Hill Church who has three children enrolled at Mt. Peak and spokesperson for the Bring Back the Plaques Facebook group.
The plaque at Mt. Peak states the school is dedicated to the “education of God's children and to their faithful teachers in the name of the Holy Christian Church.” The plaque at Longbranch includes similar language.
Greene had stated the district violated Article 1, Section 7 of the Texas Constitution that prohibits state money or property being used to benefit any religion.
Green told the district he intended to sue if the board of trustees did not vote to remove the plaques at the Oct. 20 board meeting. When the board did not vote on the plaques at that meeting, Greene postponed filing his lawsuit until early November, saying he had started a new job that was keeping him away from his computer to electronically file the documents.
The district's lawyer Craig Wood had said that as a resident of San Antonio, which is not inside the district boundaries, Greene could face problems with legal standing.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) that first complained about the plaques over the summer has not made any statements on whether it plans to peruse any action against the district. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation received a complaint about the plaque violating the separation of church and state from a local resident, said Sam Grover, a staff attorney for FFRF.
The FFRF is keeping up with the plaques’ status and is having internal discussion on how to proceed, Grover said.
“The board's attorney is also planning to provide me with some documents from a board meeting in 1997 when the plaques were first put in place,” Grover said.
The district originally complied with the FFRF’s request to cover and remove the plaques, but after peaceful protests for community support of the plaques and the removal of the covers by an unknown person, district superintendent Jerome Stewart announced on Aug. 28 that the plaques would remain uncovered. The district has taken no official action related to the plaques since then.
Coffman is hopeful the community will now be encouraged.
“This plaque issue may be a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but it proves that Christians can peacefully unite, have an opinion and be heard on issues that are important to us,” he wrote. “We must not sit idly by in the name of 'political correctness' and allow our Christian values to be persecuted and removed.”