PARKERSBURG, WV — School officials in West Virginia have painted over a Bible verse on the gymnasium wall of a local high school following a complaint from a prominent atheist activist organization.
“We asked them to take it down,” Pat Law, the superintendent of the Wood County School District, told reporters. “We have to follow the law—whatever that law might be. We’re going to be certain that everyone’s rights are being protected.”
Philippians 4:13, which reads, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,” had been displayed on the gymnasium wall outside of the wrestling room at Parkersburg South High School for some time. It had been the wrestling team’s motto for ten years, and is posted on the team’s website and on wrestler’s t-shirts.
However, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to officials with the Wood County School District, asserting that the Scripture violates the separation of church and state. It stated that it had received a complaint about the matter from an unnamed source.
“We needed to point out the obvious fact that this cannot be a team’s motto, that this is unconstitutional for a public school to endorse or advance religion,” FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott told television station WTAP. “And so that was our letter to the superintendent on April 11 about that being the team’s motto.”
While school officials agreed to cover the Scripture in the gymnasium to avoid the government endorsement of religion, as well as to remove the Scriptures from the wrestling team’s website, some parents are now putting their foot down should students be required to discard their Bible-based t-shirts.
Attorney Bill Merriman told reporters that parents paid for the shirts, which are optional and not a part of the school uniform.
“They don’t understand how somebody can come along after all these years and say you can’t wear that,” he stated. “It’s frustrating for the parents because they see a lot of other t-shirts being worn by students that are certainly not religious but they are offensive. Nobody is saying they can’t wear those shirts.”
So far, the school district is allowing students to wear the shirts as it considers them to be a part of students’ free speech.
As previously reported, FFRF also took issue with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker after he posted the same Scripture on his Twitter account last month. Walker refused to remove the verse upon receipt of a letter from the organization, demanding that it be deleted.
“This braggadocio verse coming from a public official is rather disturbing,” FFRF wrote. “To say, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ seems more like a threat, or the utterance of a theocratic dictator, than of a duly elected civil servant.”
“Governor Walker will not remove the post on his social media,” Press Secretary Laurel Patrick wrote in a statement. “The verse was part of a devotional he read that morning, which inspired him, and he chose to share it.”