CLOVIS, N.M. — Officials with a public school in New Mexico quickly agreed to paint over a mural featuring a Scripture citation after receiving a letter from a prominent atheist-led church-state separation group last week.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to the Clovis Municipal School District after receiving a complaint from a parent who noticed the mural at Clovis Freshman Academy, which features a dove and anchor, and the phrase “Hope anchors the soul—Hebrews 6:19.”
The mural had reportedly been created by a former art teacher four years ago and none had complained—until now.
“The district violates the Constitution when it allows schools to display religious symbols or messages,” FFRF’s letter read. “Public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion.”
“This religious display is particularly inappropriate given that about 35% of those born after 1981 are not religious,” it asserted. “The display alienates those nonreligious students, families, teachers and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school.”
The organization therefore asked that the mural be removed so as to adhere to a neutrality toward religion.
The same day that the letter was received, Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Jody Balch advised via email that the school was working on painting over the display. It was covered within 24 hours.
“We are pleased that the school district reacted with alacrity to remedy this violation,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “This action ensures that all of its students—of any religious background or no religious background—feel welcome and included.”
However, local television station KRQE spoke to members of the public and reported that most said they have no problem with the painting.
As previously reported, in 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed “The Old Deluder Satan Act,” which required that children be taught to read so they could learn to read the Bible.
“In being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, … and that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read,” it read in part.
The first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in public and private schools alike until approximately the early 1900’s. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“Save me, O God, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve Thee forever, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son,” it read.