A letter from Wisconsin-based atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) urged a West Virginia school district to remove a Bible verse that has been painted on the Parkersburg South High School's gymnasium wall for over 10 years.
The verse, Philippians 4:13, says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Not only has this been on the wall without complaint for over a decade, it is the wrestling team's motto and appears on their team t-shirts and website. But after the school district received the letter from FFRF, the school complied and painted over the verse. They also removed the verse from the wrestling team's website.
An attorney for FFRF told local station WTAP, "We needed to point out the obvious fact that this cannot be a team’s motto, that this is unconstitutional for a public school to endorse or advance religion."
The FFRF's letter cites an "unnamed source" as bringing this to their attention.
President of the Wood County Board of Education Tim Yeater told the Christian Post that after receiving the letter, legal council recommended the removal of the verse on the wall and website because the school is in violation of state and federal law. Superintendent Pat Law said, "We have to follow the law—whatever that law might be. We’re going to be certain that everyone’s rights are being protected.”
Some in the community are upset that the school district acted "too quickly" in removing the Bible verse. ChristianNews.net says the school will allow the verse to remain on the t-shirts because parents paid for them and are not the team's official uniform. This falls under the students' right to free speech.
ChristianNews.net ran a story in March also surrounding Philippians 4:13 and the FFRF. In this instance, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker received a complaint letter from the FFRF after he posted that same verse to his Facebook account. It demanded the governor delete the post from his page, saying, "This braggadocio verse coming from a public official is rather disturbing. To say, ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,’ seems more like a threat, or the utterance of a theocratic dictator, than of a duly elected civil servant."
Walker's press secretary defended the post as inspirational to the governor that day and insured that the post would not be removed and that the governor "will not bow to atheist demands."