Another school district has caved in to the intimidation of atheists demanding that religious sentiment be obliterated from the sight of students. The school board of Madison County, Georgia, voted to remove Bible verses from a monument donated by a private party to the Danielsville, Georgia, high-school football team.
The monument, placed outside the school in August as an inspiration to both the school's football team and its students, includes two New Testament verses: Romans 8:31, which reads, “If God be for us, who can be against us,” and Philippians 4:13, which declares, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Two atheist groups, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the American Humanist Association (AHA), insisted that the Scripture passages on school property violated the First Amendment's supposed separation of church and state and demanded that the district remove the offending text, with the threat of legal action should the district refuse to knuckle under.
“The Bible verses on this monument violate this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the school, and by extension the district, prefer religion to non-religion and Christianity to all other religions,” FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel counseled in a letter to the district.
Similarly AHA's legal representative Monica Miller demanded that the district “remove the religious references from the monument,” and to “cover up the monument until such removal takes place.”
On October 14, following a two-hour closed meeting, the school board announced that it had decided it would obey the demands of the two atheist groups and remove the verses. The Madison County Journal reported that following the closed-door meeting the school board's attorney, Cory Kirby, outlined to the public “what he said he saw as the board’s three possible options for the situation — to do nothing, modify the monument, or move it off of school property.” According to the paper, “Kirby told the crowd that nobody can interfere with a person’s practice of religion, but that the school board, as a publicly subsidized entity, could not legally take any action to advance or prohibit the practice of one religion over another. 'This is the framework the school board must use,' Kirby said.”
The decision of the board followed an open meeting at which several residents had spoken out strongly on behalf of fighting to keep the Scriptures on the monument. “We are not here as haters, we are here to love all,” said one resident, Theresa Gordon, speaking on behalf of many other residents and families. “It seems as if these [atheist] groups are here as haters, willing to spend millions to remove God from [our society].… They must have hatred in their hearts to fight so hard to remove Him from this small object that was placed for others to enjoy.”
Another resident, Jess Martin, challenged that “this is the South, the Bible belt of the world. We cannot let them take advantage of our rights as a Christian nation.”
Another parent said that “if you don’t want to read it, shut your eyes when you go by it. Don’t read it. This is Georgia, this is the Bible Belt. We’re taught to believe in Jesus Christ.”
Regardless of the wishes of the community, school board member Robert Hooper explained that, “with great consideration and concern for all students,” he had made a motion to remove the Bible verses from the monument, a motion that was unanimously carried, with Superintendent Allen McCannon confirming that he would give the order to have the monument modified.