UPDATE: Controversy Surrounds Wrestling Team Shirts with Bible Verse

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

UPDATE 4/23/14 .
WOOD COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Officials with Wood County Schools say a Bible verse that is in the school's gym is being painted over.

The verse is Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The same verse is on the back of Parkersburg South's wrestling shirts.

Recently the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to school officials, complaining about the Bible verse being used as the wrestling team's motto.

The team has been wearing t-shirts with the Bible verse on the back since the 1990s.

A staff attorney with the organization, Patrick Elliott, says someone in the community went to the organization with concerns about the team using the verse as their motto.

He says while the group made no threat of legal action against the school district, it did cite Supreme Court cases to back up its argument.

Wood County Superintendent Dr. Patrick Law says it's not clear exactly when the verse will be painted over in the gym.

Attorney Bill Merriman says he is representing one of Parkersburg South's wrestlers and his parents.

Merriman says the family feels their right to freedom of expression is being taken away from them.

"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," says Elliott. "And so that was our letter to the superintendent on April 11 about that being the team's motto."

"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," says Jayme Fife, a Williamstown resident whose family members went to Parkersburg South.

Superintendent Law say the verse has also been removed from the team's website, which linked to the school's website.



ORIGINAL STORY 4/20/14
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Wood County school officials have asked their lawyers to review a wrestling team's T-shirts that bear a Bible verse on the back.

Superintendent Pat Law tells media outlets that the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation complained about the Parkersburg South High School team's T-shirts to school officials.

The verse states, "I can do all things through Him that strengthens me."

Law says the group's complaint alleges that the shirts violate the federal separation of church and state.

Law says school officials don't want to infringe on anyone's right to practice their religion, But he says courts repeatedly have said public institutions such as schools can't promote a religion.

Attorney Bill Merriman represents one of the wrestlers and his parents. He says wrestlers' parents bought the T-shirts.


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