WHITESBURG, Ky. — A school district in Kentucky says that a Bible verse has been painted over after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter to the superintendent to assert that the display is unconstitutional.
Stenciled in large letters above the lockers where the Letcher Central High School football team changed for practice was painted Jeremiah 20:11, “But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior.”
But FFRF says that it was contacted by a “concerned area resident” who alerted them to the presence of the Scripture and provided a photograph. It sent a letter in November to ask that it be removed.
“[T]he district violates the Constitution when it allows schools to display religious symbols or messages,” attorney Christopher Line wrote to Superintendent Denise Yonts. “Public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion.”
The atheist-led, self-identified Church-State separation group pointed to another letter that it had previously sent to the district in taking issue with a display on a bulletin board at Fleming Neon Middle School that read, “Jesus is my savior; you can’t scare me,” as well as a prayer posted to an elementary school Facebook page.
These displays “violate this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the district prefers religion over nonreligion and Christianity over all faiths,” FFRF asserted. It asked the district to remove all religious displays in order to “remain neutral toward religion.”
On Feb. 21, Superintendent Yonts responded to the correspondence, simply writing, “The bulletin board has been replaced, the Facebook post has been removed, and the locker room has been repainted.” She enclosed a photo of the locker room as proof.
Yonts also took to social media on Wednesday to state that while the displays were indeed removed as per the board attorney, she wishes to assure students and parents that any student expression of religion will still be protected.
“Student generated religious displays, clubs, or activities are a very meaningful part of the culture of Letcher County Schools,” Yonts said. “Following the law allows us to continue to protect our students’ religious freedoms, and as the superintendent, I will always do what’s best for our Letcher County students.”
FFRF cheered the removals in a press release, stating, “Given that almost two-fifths of younger Americans — those born after 1987 — are nonreligious, the presence of this sort of religious iconography in schools is particularly exclusionary.”
The group asserts on its website that “most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.”
“In modern times, the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women’s right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery,” it states.
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.”