MOUNT VERNON, Texas — A prominent atheist activist group is demanding that a Texas school district remove a number of Christian quotes from its walls, contending that they “unconstitutionally promote religion.”
The Mount Vernon Independent School District has over 100 quotes stenciled on the walls of its public schools, and approximately seven of them reference Christianity or quote directly from the Bible.
“Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face,” one quote reads, being attributed to former President Ronald Reagan.
“It is impossible to govern a nation without God and the Bible,” another reads, being attributed to former President George Washington.
Last week, Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to officials with the school district to assert that the quotes are both unconstitutional and “dubious.”
“The numerous biblical quotes currently displayed on MVISD property unconstitutionally promote Christianity, creating the appearance that it is favored by the district,” the letter reads. “These quotes must be removed.”
“The quotes on the walls of MVISD are school district speech subject to the Establishment Clause, not private speech posted as part of a public forum,” it continues. “By promoting religious and Christian quotes on school property, MVISD does a disservice to the nearly 30% of Americans who are non-Christian, either practicing a minority religion or no religion at all.”
The correspondence also contends that the historical quotes were either misquoted or manipulated, and were not true quotes.
“The district cannot even fall back on the argument that these quotes have educational merit, given the many examples of misquotes, misattributions, and entirely fraudulent quotes displayed on its walls,” FFRF staff attorney, Sam Grover said in a statement.
FFRF had also sent a letter to the district last October to complain about the quotes, and to demand that teachers remove “religious postings” from classrooms, including Bible verses or the display of crosses. As the district did not capitulate to its request, FFRF has now sent a second letter after investigating the matter further.
As previously reported, a federal judge in Pennsylvania recently threw out a FFRF lawsuit against a Ten Commandments monument at a local high school, as it had sued on behalf of a mother and her daughter, who allegedly took offense at the display.
U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry outlined in his ruling that complainant Marie Schaub had only seen the monument two or three times. Her daughter—whose name has not been released—also testified that she didn’t pay much attention to the display while on campus.
Therefore, McVerry declared that Schaub and her daughter had no standing in the lawsuit and dismissed the case. He said that the need for a lawsuit “seems to have manifested itself only after FFRF became involved in [the] dispute…”
“Because plaintiffs lack standing, the court’s inquiry is concluded. The court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to address the merits of plaintiffs’ claims, and this action must be dismissed,” McVerry wrote.