After a complaint by an atheist group, school officials in West Virginia decided to paint over a Bible verse on a wall inside a high school gymnasium and delete the same Scripture from the wrestling team’s website.
Until this earlier in the week, the text of Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” — was present on a gym wall at Parkersburg South High School and on the team’s website. But a letter questioning its presence changed all that.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, sent an inquiry questioning the verse’s embrace at the public school, claiming that an anonymous individual in the community had approached the organization with concerns over the issue.
The foundation reportedly expressed concern over the possibility that the public school was endorsing Christianity by allowing the verse. While it didn’t threaten a lawsuit over the team’s biblical motto, it did cite past legal cases its leaders say preclude the school from touting the message.
In addition to being displayed on the gym wall and wrestling team website, the verse has also been on the back of T-shirts members of the wrestling team have been wearing since the 1990s, WSAZ-TV reported.
Attorney Bill Merriman is representing one wrestler and his family who are defending team members’ rights to continue donning the message. The lawyer claims the T-shirts were purchased by students’ parents, aren’t school sanctioned, and aren’t among wrestlers’ required apparel.
“It’s not part of the official uniform,” Merriman told conservative commentator Todd Starnes. “If a student athlete doesn’t want to wear that shirt, they don’t have to. It’s not a requirement.”
Merriman indicated that he would be willing to sue the school if the shirts end up being banned.
“The First Amendment swings both ways,” the lawyer added.
So far Wood County Superintendent Dr. Patrick Law also maintains that the students can continue wearing the Bible-themed shirts, as officials cannot crack down on pupils’ free speech and expression.
(H/T: Christian Today)