DANIELSVILLE, Ga. — A prominent atheist activist organization and a nationally-recognized humanist group are demanding that a Georgia school district remove two Scripture verses from a sculpture that sits outside of the field house of a local high school.
The Madison,Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Washington, D.C.-based American Humanist Association (AHA) recently both sent letters to officials with the Madison County School District in Danielsville, Georgia in regard to a monument that was recently erected at Madison County High School.
In addition to the school logo and the slogan “Home of the Red Raiders,” the sculpture at issue contains two Bible verses: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” from Romans 8:31 and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” from Philippians 4:13. The monument was paid for by private funds, but the identity of the sponsor has not been revealed.
FFRF and AHA contend that because the sculpture is placed on public school property, the inclusion of Scripture on the monument is a violation of the “separation of church and state” because it suggests that the school prefers Christianity over other religions—or Godlessness.
“The district violates the Constitution when it allows its schools to display religious symbols messages. Schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” the letter from FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel asserted. “The Bible verses on this monument violate this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the school, and by extension the district, prefer religion to non-religion and Christianity to all other religions.”
“[T]he school’s prominent inclusion of Bible verses in a large permanent monument unconstitutionally ‘convey[s] a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored,'” concurred Monica Miller with AHA. “There is no question that the permanent monument placed on the school’s property is ‘state-sponsored’ and thus, prohibited by the Establishment Clause.”
Miller requested that the district “cover up the monument” until the Scriptures were removed, and Seidel likewise asked that officials “remove the Bible quotes from the monument and any other religious messages posted on district property.”
According to local television station WXIA, Superintendent Allen McCannon has advised in response to the correspondence from the atheist and humanist groups that the school board and its attorneys are “investigating options available to it regarding the monument including, but not limited to, removal of the monument or modifying the monument in some manner.”
But many local residents state that the district should not cave to the demands of the organizations.
“If someone doesn’t believe in God, then why should it matter?” Christin Mitchell told Fox Atlanta. “I mean that’s just their belief, but if people do believe in God, they should be a able to put his name out there.”
“I think everybody ought to just leave it alone and let God run this earth like he does,” added Johnny Kinley.
A number of supporters in the community are expected to attend next month’s school board meeting to urge district officials not to alter the monument to appease the atheist and humanist organizations.