A Colorado college has decided to remove all donor plaques from its football locker room to avoid including an inscription of a Bible verse from a former student who sued for violation of free speech and Establishment Clause under the U.S. Constitution.
The Colorado School of Mines made the decision in light of the lawsuit filed last October by former school athlete Michael Lucas, who donated $2,500 to the fundraising programme for the new Clear Creek Athletics Complex and wanted his donor nameplate to include the text "Colossians 3:23 and Micah 5:9."
But the school rejected it as one of the verses contained the word "Lord," claiming that the inclusion of that word on the nameplate would violate the First Amendment.
As a result, Lucas filed the lawsuit against the school, saying his civil rights were violated.
But on Friday, Lucas dropped the lawsuit after the school scrapped the fundraising programme and the donor nameplates.
"It's ridiculous and sad that the school felt the need to punish everyone who participated in the programme simply because it could not stomach a Bible reference on one plaque – a reference that was not even going to include the text of the verses," said lawyer Tyson Langhofer of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lucas.
In a letter dated Dec. 23, 2015, school president Paul Johnson wrote Lucas a letter, saying that all existing plaques would be removed and replaced with new plaques with "no free text quotes."
Johnson said the decision to remove the original plaque was "to remove any potential for further misunderstanding" just like the lawsuit.
"Mines never intended for the new locker room to be a public forum for individual expression, nor do we believe anyone could reasonably assert that a private locker room would be viewed as a public space," he added.
The ADF said the school opposed Lucas' nameplate as it maintained that it could not contain the words "Lord," "God' or "Jesus" or make any reference to Bible verses.
"The school initially imposed no restrictions – or even guidelines – on the type of message a donor could include, and contrary to what the school argued, the First Amendment protects – not restricts – a simple reference to a Bible verse in this context," said ADF Senior Counsel David Hacker. "Because the school apparently feared a simple Scripture reference would be like asbestos on the locker room walls, it decided to purge any trace of free expression from the facility."