When the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) tells local school officials to jump, it seems that the school officials’ only question is “how high?”
The group, whose stated goal is to keep religious values separate from the state (in this case taxpayer-supported education of children) just succeeded in having a second plaque with a prayer removed from a Virginia school.
Wythe County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Jefferies said the plaque was taken down earlier this week from the cafeteria at Fort Chiswell High School after the school system got a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the same group that easily got school officials to remove a similar plaque from Spiller Elementary School two years ago.
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A letter from the FFRF dated Oct. 30 demanding the removal of the prayer plaque says a “concerned community member” contacted the foundation about the plaque, which reads “Our Father: We thank thee for this food. Bless it to the nourishment of our bodies and our lives to thy service. Amen.”
“While the Wythe County School Board and administration strongly support the right of our students to freely exercise strongly held religious beliefs, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits public schools from promoting particular religious beliefs or views. The school division, as a governmental entity, is prohibited by law from displaying or endorsing specific religious messages in its buildings. The Wythe County School Board respects the rights of individuals to freely hold religious beliefs, but the law is clear that public schools cannot favor one religion over others, such as by posting or promoting a particular message within its facilities or activities,” Jefferies said in a statement.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin.
Its letter, written by attorney Brendan Johnson, said, “This religious display is particularly inappropriate given that over a quarter of Americans are not religious. The display alienates those students, families, teacher and members of the public whose religious belief are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school.”
The school system’s decision in 2017 to remove the Spiller plaque drew backlash from local parents and religious leaders, who spoke out during a school board meeting and a community forum about the decision.