A painting on display in an Oklahoma middle school’s main office has caught the ire of atheist activists who are demanding that officials immediately remove it.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, sent a letter to district officials on August 25 complaining over the image, which features children praying in front of an American flag.
The poster, based on a painting titled “Faith in America” by artist Donald Zolan, has been hanging in Kenneth Cooper Middle School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for nearly two decades. But the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims it violates the U.S. Constitution.
The district, though, doesn’t appear to be budging.
An attorney for the Putnam City Public School District responded to the atheist group September 29, noting that the complaint — reportedly based on a local family’s dissatisfaction with the poster — is the first ever the district has received in its 18 years of displaying the image.
“We cannot agree that the poster displayed in the office is a per se violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution,” wrote attorney Anthony Childers. ”Though, as you’ve pointed out, the title given to the artwork by the original artist is labeled ‘Faith in America,’ there is no text displayed with the poster which imputes the artist’s intent, theme, or title.”
Childers noted that the children’s stance in the poster is general and not sectarian and that it does not appear to be urging students toward any singular religious view or act.
Not only did the lawyer disagree with the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s stance, but the response notes that officials won’t be complying with its demand for removal.
“At this time, we do not believe that the image violates the Establishment Clause and the District will not agree to remove the image from its office,” Childers concluded.
Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel was less than content with this response, picking the district’s stance apart in a response delivered to Childers via email on October 3.
“This is posted in the office, where students are often required to go on school matters. They are forced into regular contact with the painting by the government,” Seidel wrote. “And in any school context coercion is virtually assumed.”
The letter concluded with the Freedom From Religion Foundation again demanding that the district remove the image to fall in compliance with the U.S. Constitution.
(H/T: Friendly Atheist)