A West Virginia school district has painted over a Bible verse formerly located in the gymnasium of one of its high schools.
Philippians 4:13, which was inscribed on Parkersburg South High School's gymnasium wall more than a decade ago, was painted over last week after the district received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group based in Madison, Wisconsin.
"Last week, the Bible verse was painted over after a recommendation from our legal council informing the administration we were in violation of State and Federal Law," Tim Yeater, president of the Wood County Board of Education, told The Christian Post on Wednesday.
Yeater also told CP that the decision to paint over the verse has received a "mixed response" from the community.
"The local media and a few community members have taken the viewpoint that we need to maintain a definitive separation between church and state, while most community members I have heard from thought we reacted too quickly and should not have painted over the Bible verse," said Yeater.
"I think the bigger issue from the public was protecting the rights of our students and ensuring we permit the students to wear T-shirts with the verse while in school or attending athletic functions," he added.
In a statement to local media Pat Law, superintendent of Wood County School District, said, "We asked them to take it down. We have to follow the law, whatever that law might be. We're going to be certain that everyone's rights are being protected."
The verse, Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me," was placed in the gymnasium wall outside the wrestling room at Parkersburg South High.
Philippians 4:13 was not only on the wall, but is also the motto of the high school wrestling team and is on their official T-shirts.
The FFRF sent a letter of complaint recently to Wood County regarding the presence of the Bible verse on both the gym wall and the T-shirts.
"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," Patrick Elliott, an FFRF attorney, told WTAP regarding his organization's action. "And so, that was our letter to the superintendent on April 11 about that being the team's motto."
The debate about whether or not the Bible verse will remain the wrestling team's motto and if the T-shirts will continue to have Philippians 4:13 on them is ongoing.
Supporters of the T-shirts and motto have argued that, since parents purchased the shirts, no public funds were used, and thus no public funding of a sectarian enterprise.