School paints over Bible verse in gymnasium after atheist complaints

Parkersburg South High School

Parkersburg South High School will paint over a Bible verse in their gymnasium on April 24 after an atheist group complained to school officials.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter two weeks ago to Wood County School District officials stating that the display of Philippians 4:13 on the high school's gymnasium wall, the wrestling team's website, and the wrestler's t-shirts is unconstitutional.

Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," has been the West Virginia wrestling team's motto for decades.

FFRF attorney Patrick Elliot said that a Bible verse as a public school's athletic team's motto is a violation of the separation between church and state.

"We needed to point out the obvious fact that this cannot be a team's motto, that this is unconstitutional for a public school to endorse or advance religion," Elliott told WSAZ Charleston.

One community member expressed frustration over the situation, stating that the Bible verse is a positive message for students.

"If it inspires youth to be a part of something, to be part of a team, to be part of an organization, if it inspires them to be better, I don't see why it's such a big deal that, okay, this particular one happens to come from the Bible," Jayme Fife said.

The school agreed to remove the Bible verse from the team website and the gymnasium, but the wrestlers and their parents are protesting the t-shirt modification.

The wrestler's shirts are not a part of the team's uniform, and were purchased by parents. Bill Merriman, an attorney representing one of the wrestlers, stated that he is ready to file suit if the students are told to stop wearing the shirts.

"The First Amendment swings both ways," Merriman told