Last year, I posted about the Mount Vernon Independent School District in Texas, where endorsements of religion are all over the place.
There are religious messages on the walls, like this one from Ronald Reagan:
“Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.”
There’s also a (likely misattributed) quotation by Thomas Paine that says: “Reputation is what men and women think of us, character is what God and angels know of us.” (Paine, you probably wouldn’t guess from the quotation, was a Deist.)
Another quotation, attributed to George Washington, says, “It is impossible to govern a nation without God and the Bible.” There’s no evidence that he said anything of the sort.
These quotations, properly cited or not, have no merit. They’re not inspirational and they’re not historical. They serve no purpose other than to promote the Bible. I’m surprised they don’t have advertisements for local megachurches hanging on the walls.
The quotations weren’t the only way they promoted religion in the District. There is also this wall of Christian crosses in a kindergarten classroom, some of which have Bible verses printed on them:
And this list of “Bible Verses for Teachers” that one high school Spanish teacher has up on her classroom wall:
That list includes Ephesians 3:16-17: “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
There’s also this t-shirt sold at Mount Vernon Elementary that says “FAITH — Family — TIGERS” with the “T” in “FAITH” replaced by a cross:
In October, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Sam Grover sent a letter to the district documenting all the problems and urging the district to put a stop to all these endorsements of Christianity:
“Given the variety and pervasiveness of the violations reported to us, we recommend that the district not only address the specific violations reported here, but also make an effort to educate all district employees about their obligation to remain neutral toward religion under the Establishment Clause,” the letter concluded.
“We have rarely seen such a collection of egregious state/church violations in one school district,” commented Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “This is religion run amok, targeting a captive audience of young students, including elementary school students. All of these religious mottos, symbols, posters, bible verses and Christian T-shirts should be removed immediately.”
In February, FFRF sent another letter requesting more information about how these quotations were selected.
The district sets a poor example for its students if it cannot be bothered to fact check the messages it chooses to endorse. The misquote from Ronald Reagan, the deceptively modified John Adams quote, and the historical revisionism involved in attributing the Golden Rule to Jesus are all examples of worrisome intellectual dishonesty by the district. And significantly, all of these inaccuracies, save for the erroneous Thomas Jefferson quote, are being used to promote religion to students. This is simply unacceptable.
… By promoting religious and Christian quotes on school property, MVISD does a disservice to the nearly 30% of Americans who are non-Christian, either practicing a minority religion or no religion at all.
While this new letter addresses the quotations, it’s unclear whether the other issues have been resolved. Either way, if the District doesn’t take care of this immediately, taxpayers could ultimately be on the hook for FFRF’s legal fees if there’s a lawsuit.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)