MIDLOTHIAN, Texas — A public school district in Texas has covered two dedication plaques that referenced God with duct tape after a prominent atheist activist organization asserted that the displays did not belong on school property.
The Midlothian Independent School District has confirmed that a plaque has been covered at Mountain Peak Elementary School and Longbranch Elementary School due to the complaint.
“Dedicated in the year of our Lord 1997 to the education of God’s children and their faithful teachers in the name of the Holy Christian Church,” the dedication plaques read. “Soli Deo Gloria.”
Last year, an anonymous resident contacted the Madison,Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) about the plaques, which in turn sent a letter to the district to demand that they be removed.
“It should go without saying that a public elementary school may not proclaim ‘glory to God alone’ nor dedicate itself to a particular church,” FFRF said in a statement to local television station KFOR.
“FFRF believes that the district is in violation of the U.S. Constitution in its display of this plaque,” district Superintendent Jerome Stewart further outlined to FOX reporter Todd Starnes. “Although MISD has not been threatened with a lawsuit, the school district’s attorney advised that it would not prevail in court if it refused FFRF’s request and a lawsuit followed.”
Stewart said that the plaques have now been covered and will eventually be replaced.
FFRF said that it is pleased that the district has cooperated with its demands.
“We do applaud the school district for taking swift action to correct this Constitutional violation,” the organization said.
But others state that Stewart should not have folded so easily. Parents held a prayer gathering on Wednesday at the school flag poles, and a protest is scheduled for today at the district administration building. The Facebook group “Bring Back the Plaques” also has over 4,800 members.
“Let’s send a clear message to MISD that we don’t want to be bullied around just because one person didn’t like the plaques,” a description of the group states. “[W]e as Midlothian citizens and parents say enough is enough! We will stand behind MISD should lawsuits be filed! … The schools’ decisions should be a representation of the city it serves. People move here because of the conservative values that this town holds! Perhaps, MISD just needs that reminder.”
The Plano-based Liberty Institute, a Christian legal organization in the state, says that it is contemplating involvement in the matter.
“No school should ever take action based on an FFRF letter,” Director of Litigation Hiram Sasser told Starnes. “The censorship of these plaques sends a message of division and hostility to the community.”
He said that the Constitution prohibits government hostility toward religion.