Atheists Force Connecticut Teacher to Remove Bible Verse Display

Students at Westside Middle School in Winder, Georgia, including Gabriela Unguryan (standing), answer questions via internet from a class at Charleswood Junior High School located in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada during a cooperative education project with Canada on January 24, 2008. The campus of Westside Middle School is the host site where school officials, government leaders and partnerships from as far away as Canada gathered to view a new era in learning by bringing virtual experiences right into the classroom. | (Photo: Reuters/Tami Chappell/Handout)

A Connecticut public charter school asked one of its employees to remove the display of a Bible verse on her profile outside a classroom after the nation's largest atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, complained to the school's board of directors about it.

Jumoke Academy Charter School in Hartford, Connecticut, told an academic assistant to remove the verse Philippians 4:13, which read, "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me," after FFRF wrote a complaint letter to the school's board of directors, claiming the display outside one of the school's classrooms was "unconstitutional," according to FFRF, which boasts about the school's action on its website.

"Public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion," FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to James Michel, the chair of the board. "Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools."

FFRF called the display "quite inappropriate," on the claim that "nearly 30 percent of Americans and 44 percent of millennials are non-Christian, either practicing a minority religion or no religion."

"The display alienates those nonreligious students, families, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the messages being promoted by the school," the letter said.

Troy Monroe, executive director of Jumoke Academy, responded to the letter by saying, "After reviewing the letter, the issue of concern was investigated and the employee of concern was met with. As a result of our investigation and conversation with the employee, the posting was removed and the employee was reminded that Jumoke Academy is a public school and must be in compliance with the regulations concerning separation of church and state."

Monroe also said that the school-based leadership team was informed of "these expectations and our district's legal counsel conducted a workshop for the entire school staff."

FFRF said it is "gratified" that its letter had an impact.

"It's flattering that Jumoke Academy paid attention to our complaint," FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said. "Our mission to remind public institutions of the First Amendment is made worthwhile when they actually listen to us."

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