If you were to walk through O’Donnell High School in Texas as recently as this past August, you would have seen this giant mural of the Ten Commandments:
In the same area, there’s also a mention of Isaiah 40:31, which talks about what will happen to those “who hope in the Lord.”
It prompted the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Sam Grover to send a letter to O’Donnell ISD Superintendent Dr. Cathy Amonett calling out the illegal promotion of Christianity and giving the District a choice: Remove the mural or face a lawsuit.
While they debated that decision, Amonett had an American flag placed over the Christian list. It’s a move that infuriated some students, who clearly haven’t been paying any attention in their government classes.
“I made the decision to cover it up until I made a more informed decision about what I should do, because I don’t want to harm the district or cause any controversy or anything,” Dr. Amonett said.
But the students have taken that frustration and turned it into a movement.
“Students have put verses on sticky notes just around the hallways and stuff. So two verses and commandments they’ve been complaining about turned into 70 verses,” junior Sebastian Pedroza said.
They didn’t seem to understand how all that was perfectly fine. FFRF didn’t care what students did on their own. Their letter and request wasn’t anti-Christian; it was about making sure the District was following the law.
Students still protested (something they would never do it verses from the Qur’an were painted on the walls instead.) The entire mural sent a clear message to students: If you’re not Christian, you’re not welcome here.
It took a few weeks, but Amonett eventually made the right decision. She announced that the entire mural would be painted over:
“After consultation with legal counsel, community members and students, I have decided as the Superintendent of O’Donnell ISD that the Ten Commandment mural will no longer be on display beginning Sept. 16, 2016. Although the District’s students and community members strongly support the preservation of the mural as it is, I have decided that its continued display in the commons area of the school is not in the District’s best legal interests.”
“I am so very proud of the students at O’Donnell ISD for taking a stand for what they believe in and for demonstrating extremely mature conduct in the expression of those beliefs. They have shown themselves to the world to be strong, intelligent and passionate students who deserve to be respected. The current state of American constitutional jurisprudence, however, does not permit the District to continue its display of the mural,” wrote Dr. Amonett in a press release.
That’s an interesting way of spinning it: I appreciate the students who are fighting for what they believe in… but what they believe in is illegal, and there’s no way in hell we’re going to waste taxpayer money fighting a lawsuit we’re invariably going to lose. Nice work, kids!
In any case, that mural is finally gone. But the complaints haven’t stopped. In fact, local residents found a way to fight back by building a Ten Commandments monument right across the street from the school on private property… as if anyone cares.
[Tommy] Woolam said without soliciting donations money started pouring in. He took that money and commissioned a 9 foot tall monument of the Ten Commandments. It was made by Mennonites from Seminole and he calls it a work of art.
Woolam estimated the monument to cost around $8,000 to $10,000. He said they have already paid for half the costs and donations keep rolling in from around the state. After paying off the monument, the community wants to start a Ten Commandments Scholarship fund.
“They can send as many emails as they want to the school,” junior Abby Franklin said. “But the school can’t do anything about it and they can’t do anything about it.”
So… I guess we have to say it again. This is fine. No one cares. FFRF certainly doesn’t and won’t be sending any emails about it. If the monument is on private property, there’s nothing to complain about. This is precisely what should have happened from the start.
They are free to waste their money however they’d like. But maybe they should learn how the law works before they embarrass themselves once again.
(Top screenshot via KCBD. Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)