West Virginia High School Paints Over Scripture Following Atheist Complaint

Paint Roller pdPARKERSBURG, 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.

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“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.”

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  • dwayne

    Hey Connie u need to leave the religion of atheism out of school because it is a religion that practices there is no God so tell me why can they practice theirs but Christians cannot practice ours? Explain

    • JT

      Religion of atheism makes no sense. Atheism is religion like off is a TV channel. Get educated before speaking

      • Thom Dunbar III

        Yes – that’s the claim we are all supposed to believe – like atheism isn’t a faith-based belief system – it’s faith based on the more unknowable of ideas – that a Person named God doesn’t exist. Atheists want everybody to buy the idea that their ideas are based on only provable assumptions founded by pure science. That doesn’t fly with some of us – atheists make decisions on what to believe the same way everybody else does – what seems to make the most sense based on the incomplete information at our disposal. (I agree that religion or the belief system of atheists makes no sense. But I wouldn’t try to make it out as the only existing system of absolute truth.)

    • Philip

      So you’re saying it’s okay for you to force your beliefs on Jewish, Muslim, Hindu (etc) children?

      Wow, I wasn’t aware Christianity was the religion of bullies. Thanks for explaining that to me!

    • Shannon

      Hey dwayne, atheism is in no sense at all a “religion.” It does not set forth ANY ideas about the nature or origins of life, afterlife, or purpose of life. ALL religions do this.

  • Michell

    Just so you know there is no such thing in our constitution about seperation if church and state. Look it up. I think the majority should rule and if they choose a biblical motto they should be able to have it. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Oh the horror of that saying really? Atheists do not believe in God anyway so why make a stink about something you don’t believe in? We will deal with the Muslims when the present themselves they actually do believe in God.

    • Guzzman

      I think James Madison would vehemently disagree with you about what the Establishment Clause means, that is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” As Madison (the Father of the Constitution) wrote, the Establishment Clause provides a “separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States.” Thus, there can be no question that the most instrumental Founder was more than clear that the separation of church and state was a solid principle within the Constitution. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld this principle of over many decades of case law.

      I guess the only real question is where are you getting your misinformation?

  • Stuart

    Atheists are so sensitive and aggressively pursue Christians in any way they can. Their belief of a godless world must be accepted or they attack. Christians must hold their tongues while the godless rape murder lie cheat etc without good atheist people offering an alternative that works in dealing with these growing crimes and acts of evil. Time will tell where this godless approach will lead us to

    • Philip

      When I was a Jew I would have found that motto offensive. How convenient that you only focus on atheists and ignore all other people who you’re offending.

      It’s almost like you’re myopically dishonest!

    • Shannon

      Incorrect Stuart. Ever checked out statistics of those who are in jail for such heinous crimes – how many of them are atheist vs. Christian? Data and statistics prove you to be a liar. Also, the christian believes that people can rape, murder, torture, lie, steal, etc – and STILL GO TO HEAVEN. All they have to do is “repent and turn to Jesus.” No crime goes punished, no responsibility for heinous actions – just put it all on jesus.

  • Pastor Clifford Hiller

    In the Scriptures we read, God finally gave up his patience with Hebrew children and let them wander in the wilderness for 40 years and then everyone but Caleb and Joshua died in the wilderness! They wished that they had died in Egypt rather than to be where they were so God said as I have heard you say it so it will be!
    The United States is facing the same destruction!
    As the old cliché says:

    • James J. Grimes

      Pastor Cliff, you are so correct on this sentiment. We will get what we ask for and WHAT WE DESERVE. God always guarantees justice, but will offer mercy to those who submit to Him. When He administers His justice, it will be a terrible day for those who receive it. On the other hand, His mercy will be joyful for those who receive it.

      The FFRF is an evil organization and they must be resisted. Anything, or anyone, who looks to separate us from a relationship with God will receive the judgment they deserve.

    • Philip

      If you’re a Christian why are you quoting the Tanakh? Stop trying to steal the holy book of another religion to give your own religion weight and authority.
      Speaking for every Jew in my family;


      • James J. Grimes

        Philip, I’m wondering… if you are an Atheist, what is your “holy book.” It would seem that one does not exist in your mindset. Again, just wondering…

        • Matt

          Atheists don’t have a “holy book.” The closest thing would be the section of the library designated as “non-fiction.” You won’t find the bible there, for obvious reasons.

    • James J. Grimes

      Pastor Cliff, as I was reading through the prophet Isaiah for my morning devotions in chapter 30, I came across a passage that aptly applies to those fools (biblical definition) who deny God. Let me know what you think about the application of this passage to these people:

      12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel:
      “Because you despise this word,
      And trust in oppression and perversity,
      And rely on them,
      13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you
      Like a breach ready to fall,
      A bulge in a high wall,
      Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.
      14 And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel,
      Which is broken in pieces;
      He shall not spare.
      So there shall not be found among its fragments
      A shard to take fire from the hearth,
      Or to take water from the cistern.”
      15 For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
      “In returning and rest you shall be saved;
      In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
      But you would not,
      16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”—
      Therefore you shall flee!
      And, “We will ride on swift horses”—
      Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!
      17 One thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
      At the threat of five you shall flee,
      Till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain
      And as a banner on a hill.

      This is from the NKJV.

      • Shannon

        Hey Jim, you deny god too. Ever heard of the gods Zeus, Krishna, Vishnu, Odin, Osiris, or Allah? You don’t believe in them, right? So you deny them.

        Same thing here. I just also don’t believe in the god you believe in, for the exact same reason you don’t believe in all those other gods I mention – NO PROOF.

    • Jim

      You’re right…if we don’t learn that religious persecution is the most deadly sin of all, we’re doomed to face intolerance, ignorance and apathy forever.

  • Guzzman

    The school did the right thing by taking down the Bible quotes from the school walls and website. The courts have interpreted the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause to mean that government advancement or endorsement of religion is illegal. Here’s what the Supreme Court ruled in Santa Fe v. Doe (2001): “School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherants that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherants that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.”

    Public schools, by law, must remain neutral on religious matters.

    • Jim

      Actually, the school shouldn’t have put it up in the first place. But this is West Virginia, and some people are determined that their way is the only way.

      If religious zealots would quit preaching in our schools, I promise I won’t think and reason in their church.

    • Mark

      The Constitution is NOT a document with your church-state fantasy. Beside, the sign was STUDENT initiated. So where are their protected rights?

      • Guzzman

        Take it up with the Supreme Court. Don’t complain to me, I’m just reporting the legal facts – government endorsement or promotion of religion is illegal.

  • Miguel

    I guess if you let a christian posting to be displayed on the wall other non christian believer group might wanted to express their opposing posting on the wall Where does it end?

  • Guardian

    Parkersburg South – and ALL of Parkersburg – knew it was wrong, but let it slide until they got caught. They were caught and correctly removed the religious quote. The people of Parkersburg are intelligent and may have been a little too lenient with allowing the students to use the quote. The students were well intended, but the educators should have corrected and educated them. The issue is now corrected and resloved. Case closed. Move on.

  • Edwin Guvaza

    Can Atheists explain to me why the earth as heavy as it is, is hanging in the air without falling endlessly.

  • Crystal

    Atheists are just believers in denial.