Superintendent Says Bible Verse on Bench Memorializing Student Killed in Accident Must Be Removed

Photo Credit: WSET-TV/screenshot

CHARLOTTE COURT HOUSE, Va. — A school superintendent in Virginia says that a Bible verse engraved on a bench that memorializes a student who died in an ATV accident last year must be removed in order to be “legally compliant.”

The Charlotte Court House community came together following the death of Colton Osborne, a student at Randolph Henry High School known for his love of baseball, to purchase a bench in his memory and place it near the school baseball field.

“The community of Charlotte County is a very sweet and loving community, and they do frequently request to give memorials,” Superintendent Nancy Leonard told local television station WSET.

However, because the bench includes text from Philippians 4:13, which reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” the school board says that it is concerned that it is violating the Constitution.

“During [discussions with our attorney on memorial policies], we found that the memorial bench that we currently have is not legally compliant because of the Establishment Clause,” Leonard said.

While no complaints have been received about the bench, Leonard says that the board is left with three choices: to remove the bench, cover the Scripture, or replace the verse with a secular saying reminiscent of Osborne. She says that the board is working with Osborne’s family to find another quote to replace the Bible verse.

Area residents largely state that they see no issue with the bench.

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“[A]s long as the school didn’t sponsor or pay for the bench, how is it against the Constitution?” one asked in response to a tweet from ABC 13 reporter Katie Brooke.

“Have a student organization at the school claim management over the memorial. Students are allowed to express religious sentiment,” another wrote.

“The bench and the Scripture should stay. It was his favorite verse; anyone that tries to ‘re-word’ it will be wrong,” a third contended.

As previously reported, earlier this year, a bench in Oil City, Pennsylvania that featured a quote from the Commonwealth’s founder was removed from a public park and relocated to private property after the group American Atheists (AA) complained that it was unconstitutional for the inscription to mention God.

“Men who aren’t governed by God will be governed by tyrants,” the bench read, paraphrasing a quote that is often attributed to Pennsylvania founder William Penn, a Quaker who wrote a number of theological books and who once stood trial for “causing a tumult” in preaching in the streets.

Although local residents pushed back against AA, launching a “Save the Bench” campaign and pledging over $17,000 should the city face a legal challenge, city council members voted in April to return the bench to the VFW in order to avoid the expense of a lawsuit. It was relocated in July.

President John Adams

John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote in his diary on Feb. 22, 1756, “Suppose a nation in some distant region, should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. Every member would be obliged in conscience to temperance and frugality and industry, to justice and kindness and charity towards his fellow men, and to piety and love, and reverence towards almighty God.”

“In this Commonwealth, no man would impair his health by gluttony, drunkenness or lust—no man would sacrifice his most precious time to cards, or any other trifling and mean amusement—no man would steal or lie or any way defraud his neighbour, but would live in peace and goodwill with all men. No man would blaspheme his Maker or profane his worship, but a rational and manly, a sincere and unaffected piety and devotion, would reign in all hearts.”

“What a Eutopia, what a paradise would this region be,” Adams declared.


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  • ironnat

    Since we have freedom of speech and religion there can be only one reason that anyone would oppose this and that is pure bigotry.

    • Steven H.

      No the reason is to uphold the constitution. This they knew before it was put up.

  • Quince

    Maybe people are beginning to figure out that not everyone is a christian. Maybe people are figuring out that the government should not promote religion. I mean really. Do we really trust the government to decide which religion is best? I don’t.

    • Jerome Horwitz

      Who cares if not everyone is Christian? This is in memory of a dead kid.

      And nobody is promoting religion. Nobody.

    • LadyInChrist♥BlessedBeTheLord

      It was not meant to hurt non believers.It was in memory of a child who died.

      • Quince

        This is just one item. Sadly, over time, there are likely to be more. I’m sure the school does not want something on school property with “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet” or “Hail Satan” on it. So they need to make and enforce consistent policies now.

        This was a good kid. There must be dozens of quotes or phrases that could be put on the school memorial. Just save the religious quotes for memorials that are not on school grounds.

        • LadyInChrist♥BlessedBeTheLord

          Sad you feel that way.

        • LadyInChrist♥BlessedBeTheLord

          P. S. I’ll keep yo in my Prayers.

        • NCOriolesFan

          That includes ANY quote from you as well.

          • Quince

            Christian kindness. So fine.

        • Eldrida Urika

          Why if that is who the child was? If he was religious himself, why can’t the scripture be what he would have said? People do like to quote the bible as their own special quote.
          It has no bearing on the school if it was not involved in putting the bench in place. Being on their property should not be a problem because the quote is about Him not about the school at all. People are getting so petty about the little things and forgetting about the bigger issues.

          • Quince

            And when a student dies and the family wants a quote from the Koran, or Hindu scripture or the Satanic Temple, will you still defend that child’s special quote?

            Because the standards you adopt for christians also apply to every other student. And at least 25% of young people are not christians.

          • Eldrida Urika

            I had already answered this but for some reason I can not find my reply here.
            You have put a tag on me that I do not deserve.

            I don’t object to something to remind someone a whole community though of a special child and I don’t believe they would put something unnecessary on a child’s bench. They too have verses that can be used that can suit a child in their own Holy Books, so why would anyone be upset about it. If they put something that is not appropriate to the child commemoration then it would not be accepted as an individual case, otherwise there are plenty of ways to express things in a religious way without needing to make this a problem. Why can’t people come to a compromise without needing to go through any of this. You ask if I thought it would be wrong, and I said no. So the way I look at what you said, they should leave the bench the way it is and if another child is commemorated as the other one with a bench at the school, what ever is appropriate to the child is able to be used. No one would say there is no God but Allah on a bench made to remind people of their child. (that was suggested in another post I think)
            I think they should leave it until the next bench is requested to see what they want to do with the bench that will remind others of their child. It may have a religious verse, or it may have a verse from a classical poem. It’s about the child, not us. If you don’t want to see it, don’t look at it. What is wrong with people today that they can’t just look away? turn the page? change the channel? Why do people have to complain instead of looking away from what offends them. This isn’t like it is avoiding a homeless person here. This is a child who was religious and maybe that was his favorite verse. It’s about him not the person who is looking at it. The person who is offended by something like this and go to the point of complaining – which I noticed it was that it made the school nervous and copped out before there was a complaint made.

            Make a bigger sign above it that says Beware Christian verse below, please pass by with eyes averted if you do not want to see it. Thank you. Like, come on people grow up. I am tired of it being so important to them to destroy our lives because they don’t believe what we believe. Tough luck! We don’t believe what you believe, but we don’t kick up a fuss about it.

            I honestly cannot see why every person who hates religion has to go out of their way to destroy something that means something to someone else because you cant avert your eyes? give me a break. you think that having anything on government property can not be religious but if it has to be there, it must include all the other religions. Not, if they want to. No put their up when it’s their custom. Everything like all Christians are evil and will do awful things to society. You are wrong, because not all Christians are the same, and the majority believe that Jesus’s message was to improve the world. Love everyone and treat them the way we want to be treated. Yeah, that is awful to teach children and other people. Love is such an awful way to live. isn’t it?
            People who actually understand the bible and have been taught the way Jesus asked us to behave, are the best people around. They are not highly visible, but there are more of them than there is of the Christians that don’t follow the Love everyone and treat people the way we want to be treated, We don’t stand out as something news worthy – only unrest will provide that. Christians that believe that God disciplines in harsh ways to deal with sin, provide that unrest and people who just want to be good people and reflect Jesus are not even noticed.

            This world is getting uglier and uglier with Christians fighting Christians about how to treat other people. It’s hard to watch after living the past 5+ decades. It’s also hard at times to deal with in our own lives. We must be strong to get through the hard times and still be standing for Jesus. Don’t listen to unbelievers, listen to the Lord in your heart. Keep on, Keeping on. Keep the Faith!

    • Amos Moses – He>i

      Neither do i ….. so they should just leave it alone and let the people decide ……..

    • IzTheBiz

      Do you know what a belief system is?? Secular humanism is a belief system. Isn’t the govt promoting that??

  • Reason2012

    No, in order to remain “legally compliant”, Congress cannot make it illegal to have free exercise of religion.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech

    To try pretending there’s a law that prohibits this free exercise of religion is a lie. It’s a violation of our Constitutional right that the loved ones of the student who died wanted that verse on it and this superintendent is claiming this free exercise of religion is “illegal”. The Constitution of the United States of America clearly says otherwise.

    • NCOriolesFan

      CONGRESS is the key word here, not the local school.

      • Reason2012

        So you admit it’s not legal as no law was able to be passed and the school doesn’t pass laws.

        • NCOriolesFan

          There is absolutely nothing wrong with the bench or the attributed message to the deceased student. Either the bench was a memorial to him or it wasn’t. Enough of the bickering over the bible verse.

    • Steven H.

      Glad we have the Constitution to protect us from those of you which would force your religion on us all. If you’re not familiar with it maybe you should read it and all the amendments that apply to religion.

  • SFBruce

    I believe this superintendent is doing the right thing. This bench rests on school property, and shouldn’t promote Christianity, or any other religion. If the quoted text were from the Quran it would be just as problematic.

    • NCOriolesFan

      It is the STUDENT’s bible verse, NOT the school’s.

      • SFBruce

        So? That doesn’t change the fact that it’s on school property. The school has a constitutional obligation to remain neutral when it comes to religion, and that neutrality maintains religious freedom for everyone, including both Christians and non-Christians.

        • NCOriolesFan

          It was memorial to the student regardless of the scripture.

          • SFBruce

            You may not realize it, but you must proved my point. No one has challenged creating a memorial for the student. It’s the inclusion of text from the Christian Bible that creates a problem.

          • NCOriolesFan

            Again the scripture is the tribute to the deceased student, not the school itself.

          • SFBruce

            I totally understand that. Try understanding this: I believe the quote from the New Testament is illegal, and the superintendent did the right thing. As long as this bench is on school property, any tribute to this student must be religious neutral. If someone wants to move this to private property, they can memorialize this student in whatever way they deem appropriate.

          • NCOriolesFan

            How many times must I repeat the scripture is a tribute to the deceased student. The bench as a memorial, was put next to the baseball field for the sport he loved, by the local community. Why is this so difficult for you to comprehend. LET IT GO!

          • SFBruce

            I will say again, I know that the bench is intended to be a memorial for the student, and that the Bible verse quoted is part of that memorial. I don’t think anyone disputes this completely obvious fact.

            Since this particular memorial rests on school property, that Bible verse puts the school in the position of advocating a particular religion: Christianity. That’s something that they can not do. Now, maybe you think I’m wrong about that, or maybe you think that’s not the way things should be. Those are both things a person in your position might want to argue. But it’s utterly useless to keep telling me I don’t understand that the bench is a memorial to the student and not a memorial to anyone or anything else, when it’s perfectly clear I do, indeed, understand that.

          • IzTheBiz

            How about this : Memorial to SF Bruce, who has now been neutralised as one energy source and is now in the universe somewhere, as another energy source’ oops! I think I may have offended those who are not into scientism. how about this then: ‘A memorial to SF Bruce who believed in something, but he can’t say, because he might offend someone. This a pointless memorial plaque, but we really don’t want to offend the snowflake atheists.’

        • IzTheBiz

          So therefore you can’t write ANYTHING on a memorial, as every belief system would be egregious to someone, whether it was a secular humanist, Hindu etc. Thats the end result of this kind of moronic thinking. You have plasted yourself in a corner, and you don’t even know it!

  • mr goody two shoes

    The only thing needs removing is the superintendent the devils advocate. Bringing that up to stir up trouble when it never was a issue at that school. I hope there talking about how to oust him right now .

    • ZappaSaid88

      Exactly, people in leadership positions shouldn’t follow the law under any circumstances (sarcasm)

    • James Tarkin

      Oust HER

  • NCOriolesFan

    The student body should be the first to complain – loudly. Removal of the verse violates the STUDENT’s free speech and beside the scripture is a tribute to him, not the school.

  • More fallout from the First Commandment-violating, polytheism-enabling First Amendment and the constitutional framers’ establishment of religion? Yes, you read that correctly:

    “…Although the First Amendment does not allow for establishing one religion over another, by eliminating Christianity as the federal government’s religion of choice (achieved by Article 6’s interdiction against Christian test oaths), Amendment 1 authorized equality for all non-Christian and even antichristian religions. When the Constitution failed to recognize Christian monotheism, it allowed Amendment 1 to fill the void by authorizing pagan polytheism.

    “Amendment 1 did exactly what the framers proclaimed it could not do: it prohibited the exercise of monotheistic Christianity (except within the confines of its church buildings) and established polytheism in its place. This explains the government’s double standard regarding Christian and non-Christian religions. For example, court participants entering the United States District Court of Appeals for the Middle District of Alabama must walk by a statue of Themis, the Greek goddess of justice. And yet, on November 18, 2002, this very court ruled that Judge Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments Monument violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Despite many Christians’ protests against this hypocrisy, it was in keeping with the inevitable repercussions of the First Amendment.

    “…Christians hang their religious hat on Amendment 1, as if some great moral principle is carved therein. They have gotten so caught up in the battle over the misuse of the Establishment Clause – the freedom from religion – that they have overlooked the ungodliness intrinsic in the Free Exercise Clause – the freedom of religion….”

    For more, see Chapter 11 “Amendment 1: Government-Sanctioned Polytheism” of free online book “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 11.

    Then find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.

  • Steve Montgomery

    Coming headline: “Judge Finds Constitution Unconstitutional for mentioning God!”