In the locker room of a Kentucky high school, an inspirational Bible scripture has motivated players before every competition. However, once a “concerned area resident” voiced their offense with the verse, the school quickly scrubbed it from its walls before students even had time to react.
When Letcher County Central High School in Kentucky was contacted about a biblical message located on the premises, they knew they’d either be forced to comply with the group’s demands or face a devastating lawsuit. The erosion of religious expression begins on a local level.
Despite our nation’s founding upon historical biblical principles, which can easily be found throughout our federal documents, a minority demographic seeks to erase its remnants. Although they claim that their efforts are for the sake of liberty, it’s foolish to presume that such actions won’t have unimaginable consequences.
According to Fox News, Letcher County Central High School has scrubbed an inspirational Bible verse from its walls after just one “concerned area resident” complained. The scripture in question is Jeremiah 20:11, which states, “But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior.” The verse hung above students’ cubbies in the locker room until it was effectively painted over by fearful school officials.
The complaint was reported to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which sent a warning letter to Letcher County Public Schools in Whitesburg. The message alleged that allowing the scripture to remain “violates the Constitution” by endorsing “religious symbols or messages.”
The letter complained to the district that the “display violated the constitutional principle of state/church separation,” which isn’t found anywhere in the Constitution. The foundation then demanded that district officials remove not only the scripture from the locker room but all other religious messages and iconography from the campuses.
“The bulletin board has been replaced, the Facebook post has been removed, and the locker room has been repainted,” Superintendent Denise Yonts informed FFRF in a response letter.
The letter also targeted a hallway display at Fleming Neon Middle School, which read, “Jesus is my savior. You can’t scare me!” Additionally, Martha Jane Potter Elementary School had posted a prayer on its official Facebook page that had to be removed.
“Dear God, Thank you for the gift of education in every form,” the prayer read. “As our children prepare to start a new year may confidence be their foundation, may grace be their guide and may hope be their compass toward a bright future. I pray they would have eyes to see the needs of those around them and a heart to love well. May they face each day with positivity knowing that no matter what comes their way, they do not have to face it alone. Amen.”
Upon receiving the letter, the district made immediate changes to its schools’ displays. However, religious freedom law firm First Liberty Institute criticized the district’s willingness to kowtow, claiming that there may have been grounds to defend their displays.
“It is unfortunate that the school took such a drastic step before fully vetting the complaint and doing a proper investigation of the background facts,” Hiram Sasser, general counsel for First Liberty, said. “It may be the case that the school committed a First Amendment violation by erasing the messages, but until a full investigation is done, it’s impossible to know the correct legal course.”
The foundation admits that students have the constitutional right to practice “any religion” or “none at all,” but their lawsuits prove that “none at all” is the only one they’ll promote. The lack of religious expression is an ideology on its own. Of course, it’s the only ideology that the FFRF fights to enforce.
“We applaud the district for taking action to remedy this violation,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, said in a statement. “Students in our public schools are free to practice any religion they choose — or none at all.”
The district caved out of fear of facing legal action, not confirmation that its schools were behaving unconstitutionally. In fact, other public schools have challenged the FFRF’s demands and won their cases.
Perhaps, if the students made their own display with the scripture, they might be able to replace their beloved verse in the locker room. Unfortunately, it’s coming down to the children to defend their own religious liberties since the educators seem all too willing to give in.