FFRF plaque complaint has Texans in tizzy

An FFRF complaint over religious plaques at two North Texas schools has many Texans in a theocratic tizzy. Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote the Midlothian Independent School District in June after receiving a complaint about the plaques.

A plaque at Mountain Peak Elementary says: “Dedicated in the Year of our Lord 1997 to the education of God’s children and to their faithful teachers in the name of the Holy Christian Church. Soli Deo Gloria [Glory to God alone].” 

A similar plaque is at Longbranch Elementary. The plaques were part of the buildings’ dedications 17 years ago. 

In response, school district attorney John Hardy promised FFRF that the plaque would be removed from Mountain Peak Elementary. Both plaques were then covered with duct tape. But in late August, a vandal removed the coverings.

Nearly 100 people attended a rally at the administration building to protest removal of the plaques. NBC-5 Fort Worth interviewed one protester, Lisa Huski, who said her daughter carries a bible to class: “It’s not about a plaque. It’s about God being in our children’s schools. It’s about us standing up for the fact that God’s in our school.” On Aug. 28, Superintendent Jerome Stewart announced the plaques would remain uncovered while the district seeks legal advice. Stewart earlier had said they’d have to be replaced because of their “questionable constitutional nature.” 

NBC-5 reported that the Liberty Institute in Plano, infamous for defending the bible banners used by cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, is involved. Liberty Institute’s Hiram Sasser claimed “the school district created a limited public forum for plaques relating to the topic of the building dedication,” which he further claimed cannot be censored “simply because of its religious viewpoint.”

“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment stands for the principle that the state must remain separate from church, from religion,” FFRF attorney Grover said. “This is a public school district, so it represents the state, and therefore it can’t take a position on religion.”

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor pointed to more than 65 years of firm Supreme Court decisions protecting chidren from religious proselytizing and rituals in public schools.

“What makes this case especially egregious is the fact that these religious plaques hang on elementary schools where a captive audience of very young students are being sent a theocratic message. What a lesson in abuse of authority and our secular school system,” Gaylor added.

FFRF’s office has fielded a number of crank calls from Texas and reported one threat to police.

Freedom From Religion Foundation