Humansville School District chooses to settle Ten Commandments case
By Allen Palmeri
August 3, 2004
HUMANSVILLE – Humansville School Superintendent Greg Thompson did not compromise his faith in Jesus Christ, according to his attorney, Dee Wampler, a member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, even though the school district he works for settled a federal lawsuit July 28 over the hanging of a Ten Commandments plaque in the high school.
The district agreed to pay plaintiff Carrie Roat $45,000 and follow public policy regarding religion in public schools as set forth by the federal courts. But Wampler said that because Thompson was not sued personally — a change from the original lawsuit — he was not required by law to sign off on the settlement. That enabled Roat’s attorney to reach an agreement with the attorney for the insurance company representing the school district, who also was the lead attorney for the Humansville legal team, Wampler said.
For Humansville, a town of around 1,000 in Polk County, the controversy began when Roat filed suit over the plaque in March in U.S. District Court in Springfield. A rally in the high school gymnasium April 1 was overwhelmingly in favor of Thompson’s support for the plaque as more than 400 people turned the venue into something resembling church. At the height of the controversy, all three of the major candidates for governor – Republican Matt Blunt and Democrats Bob Holden and Claire McCaskill – were talking about the Humansville Ten Commandments case.
“He (Thompson) took his position and stood firm,” Wampler said. “His name will not appear on a settlement pleading that’s filed with the court or anything, because he didn’t agree to it.
“The Bible talks about good shall be called evil and evil shall be called good. This is an example of good that the school system tried to do being called evil.”
The insurance company attorney calculated that if the case had gone to trial in 2005 or possibly even in 2006, it would have cost the school district at least $40,000, Wampler said. Rather than working with Wampler to present a defense based on the principle that God’s name has a place in public schools, the insurance company chose to validate Roat’s claim of “emotional disturbance” by rewarding her for it, Wampler said.
“I’m very well-satisfied,” said Wampler, who worked pro bono. “Greg Thompson is a man of great honor and integrity. We were totally in the right position, I think, with God on our side, but the insurance company offered the money.
“I think this just encourages the radical left-wing agenda. This just encourages spurious, silly lawsuits.”
Wampler was Thompson’s personal attorney. Kevin Theriot, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney out of the Kansas City area, had moved into position alongside Wampler to help argue the case. But Wampler said he and Theriot “had the wind taken out of our sails” when the plaintiff’s attorney chose to remove Thompson from the lawsuit as the defendant personally responsible for the Ten Commandments plaque. At that point, his role was reduced to that of Humansville superintendent, meaning he was merely one of several parties being sued as part of the district entity, Wampler noted.
“It was about money,” he said.
It also was about ministry, said Jim Gardner, a close friend of Thompson from Humansville. Gardner serves with Thompson in Asleep kNOw More, an organization that focuses on getting Christians involved in government. Thompson is the founder and president; Gardner is the prayer coordinator.
“Basically, it’s not daunting him at all,” Gardner said. “What Greg is saying publicly is, ‘If these are issues of concern, get your kids into a private school as fast as you can.’”
Gardner said that Thompson will comply with the terms of the settlement in that no adults will lead prayer at school functions. But both Gardner and Wampler issued a reminder that student-led, voluntary prayer is still legal in the United States, and Gardner added that Humansville students have grown more courageous as a result of the lawsuit.
Thompson is the leader of a Christian non-profit organization who happens to be a school superintendent. Gardner said his friend will keep the two roles separate and “not jeopardize” the school district in light of the settlement. The lawsuit has been good, Gardner said, in that it has elevated the profile of the ministry, but the future of Thompson as superintendent, as defined by the terms of the settlement, is uncertain. The school board has been instructed to “do something,” Gardner said.
Wampler expects that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and their operatives across America, who preach a “separation of church and state” doctrine that is a perversion of the original intent of the Founding Fathers, will intensify their efforts to ban Ten Commandment displays from all public settings. Claiming “victory” in Humansville, these operatives may now take aim at the Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds in Jefferson City, Wampler said.
“I think the strict separationists will be firing shots at a lot of targets,” Wampler said. “The Star Spangled Banner mentions God in the fourth stanza. Why don’t they file a lawsuit to declare that to not be our national anthem? It’s got God in it, and we can’t establish a religion, right?”