The wrestling team of a high school in West Virginia is fighting to keep a Bible verse on team t-shirts despite a complaint from local atheists and members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A local atheist reportedly contacted FFRF regarding a Bible verse that adorned the walls in Parkersburg South High School's wrestling room, the wrestling team's website and t-shirts purchased by parents for team wrestlers. The verse is Philippians 4:13 and reads "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
The verse has reportedly served as the team's motto for the past 10 years.
After receiving a letter from the FFRF, the school district encompassing Parkersburg South High School agreed to paint over the verse written in the gym's wrestling room and remove it from the wrestling team's website.
Wood County Superintendent Dr. Patrick Law told the Associated Press that the district decided to remove the verse from the gym and the website, which linked to the school website, to avoid an endorsement of religion by the public high school. He added to Todd Starnes of Fox News that the wrestling team members will be able to continue sporting their t-shirts containing the Bible verse, as the school cannot limit students from personally expressing their religious beliefs.
Bill Merriman, an attorney representing one wrestler and his parents, told Starnes that he is willing to file a lawsuit against the school district, should it ultimately decide to ban the religious-themed t-shirts. "The First Amendment swings both ways," the lawyer told Starnes for Fox.
Patrick Elliot, an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, told WSAZ-3 that his group finds it unconstitutional for the team's motto to be a Bible verse. "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."
Jayme Fife, a resident of a nearby town, told the local media outlet that she doesn't see the problem with an inspirational message coming from the Bible. "If it inspires youth to be a part of something, to be part of a team, to be part of an organization, if it inspires them to be better, I don't see why it's such a big deal that, okay, this particular one happens to come from the Bible."