In a 6 to 3 vote tonight, the Cumberland County Board of Education passed a motion to keep the Ten Commandments on the Freedom Wall in schools in the county.
Several citizens spoke to the board in the public comments part of the agenda before the vote and all but two were in favor of keeping the Ten Commandments in the schools. Nathan Clouse, an attorney in Crossville, told the board the Ten Commandments is a historical document and to remove it from the schools based on a threat of a lawsuit was premature. Clarence Garrett of Lake Tansi told the board that if the commandments are removed, they are removing God’s presence from children at schools. Garrett said the Ten Commandments does not push religion and he closed by asking the board to stand up to outsiders threatening lawsuits if the Commandments are left up. Two individuals not from Cumberland County also addressed the board. June Griffin of Rhea County said the matter should be placed on a ballot for voters to decide. Patricia Johns of Overton County then spoke about the separation of church and state.
After the public comments, school board member Aretie Patterson said it was a very difficult issue but she felt the Ten Commandments should be removed from the schools, to prevent potential lawsuits, because the board has a fiduciary responsibility to the county. Board member Shirley Parris countered with a motion to leave the Ten Commandments in the schools as a historic document. The motion received a second and a call for a vote was made. School board members Jeff Freitag, Shirley Parris, Josh Stone, Don Hassler, Tom Netherton and David Bowman voted to leave the commandments in the schools while Robert Safdie, Aretie Patterson and Teresa Boston voted against.
Another motion was made to allow school board attorney Earl Patton to contact an organization that stated they are willing to represent the Cumberland County School System at no charge in any lawsuits that may be filed by opponents to the commandments being left in the schools.