NORTH EDWARDS, Calif. — A Scripture citation written on a retaining wall at a public school in California has been painted over following receipt of a complaint from one of the nation’s most conspicuous professing atheist organizations.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) had submitted the letter to the Muroc Joint Unified School District, northeast of Los Angeles, in February, outlining that a “concerned parent” had alerted the organization last summer that “Hebrews 13:20-21” was written on the cement block wall near the main office of Desert Junior-Senior High School.
“The district violates the Constitution when it allows its schools to display religious symbols or messages. Public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” the correspondence read. “This display violates this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the district prefers religion over non-religion and Christianity over all faiths.”
“The display alienates those non-religious students, families, teachers and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school,” it also asserted, stating that religion is “divisive.”
FFRF requested that the school district remove the Scripture and advise the organization what steps it would take to ensure that religious messages are not posted at the school again.
On Friday, FFRF announced in a press release that Superintendent Kevin Cordes had responded in writing to assure the Church-State separation group that the Bible verse had been erased.
“[T]he district has removed the Bible verse painted on the retaining wall at Desert Junior-Senior High School,” he simply wrote, enclosing before and after photographs.
FFRF cheered the development, asserting that “[t]he illustration of a Bible verse on school property undeniably paints the picture that the school endorses that religious message.”
However, while some contend that the U.S. Constitution requires God and His word to be kept out of public schools, others point to the writings of the founders to dispute that such was the intent.
As previously reported, in 1828, just 41 years after the signing of the Constitution, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
He also wrote in his publication “Letters to a Young Man Commencing His Education”:
“Let it then be the first study of your early years to learn in what consists real worth or dignity of character. To ascertain this important point, consider the character and attributes of the Supreme Being. As God is the only perfect being in the universe, His character, consisting of all that is good and great, must be the model of all human excellence, and His laws must of course be the only rules of conduct by which His rational creatures can reach any portion of like excellence.”
Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and vice-president of the Bible Society of Philadelphia, said in expressing his disagreement with deists who were opposed to using the Bible in schools:
“In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible, for this divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.”