A Kentucky high school has removed a Bible verse from the wall in its athletic locker room following a complaint from an atheist group.
Letcher Central High School in Whitesburg, Ky., previously had an inspirational Bible verse painted over the team’s locker reading, “But the Lord is with me like a Mighty Warrior” – a reference to Jeremiah 20:11.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) then wrote the superintendent, requesting that the Bible verse be removed and that two other instances of religious expression in the school system be discontinued. In one instance, a bulletin board contained a display with the words, “Jesus is my Savior, You Can’t Scare Me.” In another instance, the school district’s Facebook page promoted a religious message, the organization said in a letter.
Denise Yonts, the superintendent of Letcher County Public Schools, wrote in a follow-up letter to FFRF that all three had been removed.
“The bulletin board has been replaced, the Facebook post has been removed, and the locker room has been repainted,” Yonts wrote in her letter.
FFRF is an organization that represents atheists, agnostics and “freethinkers,” according to its website.
In a Nov. 9 letter to the superintendent, FFRF staff attorney Christopher Line argued 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,” Line wrote. “... This [locker room] display, as well as the previously reported displays, violate this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the District prefers religion over nonreligion and Christianity over all faiths.”
He pointed to several Supreme Court decisions, including ones in 1962 and 1963 that said school-sponsored prayer and Bible readings violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. Even though religious conservatives have recently won high-profile cases supporting crosses on public lands, both cases from the 1960s remain precedent.
Photo courtesy: ©Freedom From Religion Foundation
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.