A school board in Georgia voted Tuesday night to remove or cover up Bible verses on a controversial monument that was recently installed near a district-owned football field.
The five members of the Madison County school board unanimously voted to make the change after hearing public comments and holding a closed meeting on the matter. The move — which is frustrating some local residents — comes following complaints from at least two atheist activist groups.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the privately funded sculpture, situated outside Madison County High School in Danielsville, Georgia, was placed on the property in August to inspire football players, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association have since called its presence on public school property 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.”
Theresa Gordon was among the three residents who showed up Tuesday night to speak in favor of the monument and to urge the board not to remove or change it. Hundreds of other locals showed up to the meeting to see first-hand what would be decided.
"We are not here as haters, we are here to love all," she said, according to the Madison Journal Today. "It seems as if these [atheist] groups are here as haters, willing to spend millions to remove God from [our society], which means they are antichrists by definition – they must have hatred in their hearts to fight so hard to remove him from this small object that was placed for others to enjoy."
Despite these pleas, the board decided that the monument must be changed to comply with its understanding of the First Amendment, particularly the separation of church and state.
The other options, which were rejected, were to either leave the monument in its current form and risk legal ramifications — or to move it off of school property.
The American Humanist Association reacted the decision in a statement Wednesday, with David Niose, legal director of the group's Appignani Humanist Legal Center, praising the covering up or removal of the verses.
"No public school should be promoting the majority religion," he said. "We are pleased that the school board has decided to respect the constitutional separation of church and state and the rights religious and nonreligious minorities."
But many locals who showed up the meeting Tuesday night disagreed.
"I don't know what inscriptions they'll take off and what it'll look like I was really disappointed they didn't decide to ignore them," resident George Strickland told WAGA-TV.
It is currently unclear when the changes will be made to the monument. It is also unclear who was responsible for including the Bible verses in its design, as the Journal reported.
North Georgia Monuments and All Sports Consulting and Construction jointly donated the sculpture, though it was someone with the latter group that reportedly made the decision to include scripture.
The specific individual responsible, though, has not been identified.
(H/T: Madison Journal Today)