O’DONNELL, Texas — The superintendent of a school district in Texas has announced that a mural of the Ten Commandments at an area high school has been painted over following a complaint and legal threat from a professing atheist organization.
“After consultation with legal counsel, community members and students, I have decided as the Superintendent of O’Donnell ISD that the Ten Commandment mural will no longer be on display beginning Sept. 16, 2016,” Dr. Cathy Amonett announced in a statement just recently released to reporters.
As previously reported, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) had sent a letter to Amonett earlier this month demanding that the district remove the painting, as well as a Scripture that had also been displayed on the wall at O’Donnell High School.
“By displaying a religious message in its entryway, O’Donnell ISD infringes on its students’ constitutionally protected religious freedom,” the letter read. “By endorsing a religious message, the school district violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
Following receipt of the correspondence, which was based upon an unidentified complainant, Amonett had the painting covered, as well as the quote of Isaiah 40:31. But students allegedly tore the black paper down in protest. The paintings were consequently re-covered with the American flag.
Students pushed back by posting scores of Scriptures on the wall.
“Students have put verses on sticky notes just around the hallways and stuff. So two verses and Commandments they’ve been complaining about turned into 70 verses,” student Sebastian Pedroza told local television station KCBD.
A public meeting was held about the matter and, according reports, approximately 100 area residents attended to express their views—with many being in favor of the Ten Commandments display.
Nonetheless, Amonett has now announced that the mural has been painted over to avoid a lawsuit.
“Although the district’s students and community members strongly support the preservation of the mural as it is, I have decided that its continued display in the commons area of the school is not in the district’s best legal interests,” she said in a statement.
Amonett applauded students for taking a stand in the matter.
“I am so very proud of the students at O’Donnell ISD for taking a stand for what they believe in and for demonstrating extremely mature conduct in the expression of those beliefs,” she said. “They have shown themselves to the world to be strong, intelligent and passionate students who deserve to be respected.”
But, she opined, “The current state of American constitutional jurisprudence, however, does not permit the district to continue its display of the mural.”
As previously reported, the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Van Orden v. Perry, which upheld a Ten Commandments monument at the Texas state capitol, noted that Decalogue displays are “common throughout America.”
“We need only look within our own courtroom,” the justices wrote. “Since 1935, Moses has stood, holding two tablets that reveal portions of the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew, among other lawgivers in the south frieze.”
“Similar acknowledgments can be seen throughout a visitor’s tour of our nation’s capital. For example, a large statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments, alongside a statue of the Apostle Paul, has overlooked the rotunda of the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building since 1897,” the decision continued. “And the Jefferson Building’s Great Reading Room contains a sculpture of a woman beside the Ten Commandments with a quote above her from the Old Testament (Micah 6:8).”
“A medallion with two tablets depicting the Ten Commandments decorates the floor of the national archives,” the court outlined. “Inside the Department of Justice, a statue entitled “The Spirit of Law” has two tablets representing the Ten Commandments lying at its feet. In front of the Ronald Reagan Building is another sculpture that includes a depiction of the Ten Commandments.”