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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