A Georgia school district is examining its options after atheist activists recently protested against a monument that includes Bible verses and is placed near a district-owned football field.
The privately funded sculpture, situated outside Madison County High School in Danielsville, Georgia, was placed on the property in August in an attempt to inspire players, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association have both called its presence unconstitutional.
The issue at the center of the debate is the fact that the sculpture has two verses on it — one from Romans 8:31 and the other from Philippians 4:13. The former reads, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" and the latter reads, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Secular groups argue that the monument has no place on public school property, with the Freedom From Religion Foundation expressing its dissatisfaction with the monument's presence in a letter dated August 28. The atheist legal firm called "religion a divisive force in public schools."
"Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools," Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the group, said in a press release last week.
While an anonymous local man reportedly started the controversy when he complained, many locals have spoken out in favor of the Christian-themed monument.
"I think it’s a great inspiration to our players here," Kim Shupe, a parent, told WSB-TV. "This whole thing was started by one person who will not come forward and name who he is."
Another parent expressed similar sentiment, telling the outlet that people should simply shut their eyes when they go by if they don't like the faith-based message.
"Don’t read it. This is Georgia, this is the Bible Belt," said Mike Rice. "We’re taught to believe in Jesus Christ."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed victory last week, though, noting that the Madison County School District plans to either modify or remove the monument, which was first unveiled August 22, though it is unclear what officials will decide.
"The Board is currently investigating options available to it regarding the monument, including, but not limited to, removal of the monument or modifying the monument in some manner," said an attorney for the school district.
School officials confirmed in an interview with the Associated Press that changes to the sculpture — or removal altogether — are possibilities.
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