School covers up elementary school plaques referencing God
A Texas school district recently covered up plaques at two elementary schools after an atheist organisation complained about their religious content.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Midlothian Independent School District (MISD) officials on June 30 taking issue with the plaques' references to God and the holy Christian church, Fox News reports.
The plaque outside Mt Peak Elementary School reads: "Dedicated in the year of our Lord 1997 to the education of God's children and to their faithful teachers in the name of the holy Christian church. Soli Deo Gloria." A similar plaque is outside of Longbranch Elementary School.
The FFRF's letter did not threaten to sue the district, but informed school officials that they found the plaques to be a violation of freedom of religion protections.
"FFRF believes that the district is in violation of the US Constitution in its display of this plaque," district superintendent Dr Jerome Stewart told Fox News.
"Although MISD has not been threatened with a lawsuit, the school district's attorney advised that it would not prevail in court if it refused FFRF's request and a lawsuit followed."
The plaques were covered and will be replaced.
"As a District employee, my personal beliefs and opinions in this constitutional matter must be secondary to the current interpretation of the law of the land," Stewart said in a statement.
District parents have largely opposed the covering and removal of the plaques.
"Let's send a clear message to MISD that we don't want to be bullied around just because ONE person didn't like the plaques," Facebook group "Bring Back the Plaques" wrote. "Where is our STRONG and conservative Midlothian??
"The schools' decisions should be a representation of the city it serves. People move here because of the conservative values that this town holds! Perhaps, MISD just needs that reminder."
The Bring Back the Plaques group has over 5,000 members.
Conservative Christian legal advocacy organisation the Liberty Institute said that covering up the plaques was premature.
"Unless there is a parent with a student who attends the school and is offended, then there is no one with legal standing to even file a lawsuit," director of litigation Hiram Sasser told Fox News. "The censorship of these plaques sends a message of division and hostility to the community."
Sasser also said that FFRF sends about 1,000 complaint letters per year, but only has the funds to legally act on about 12 of them.
"No school should ever take action based on an FFRF letter," he stated.
On Sunday, the district announced that someone had uncovered the plaques, and there are no plans to cover them