Faced with the Threat of a Lawsuit, Indiana High School Removes Godly Sign

If you entered a sporting event at North Vermillion Junior/Senior High School in Cayuga, Indiana anytime in the past 43 years, you would’ve seen this sign as you walked into Gibson Field:

Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth

An athlete is not crowned unless
he competes according to the rules

This is the will of God………..

That sign went up in 1968 and no one complained about it… until this year.

When they heard about the sign, the Freedom From Religion Foundation let the district know the sign was unconstitutional. The superintendent responded quickly:

“An acceptable replacement sign is being designed and will be made to replace the challenged signage. My timeline is to have the replacement sign in place before school starts for the 2011-2012 school year.”

That’s all it took?! Apparently so.

And now, the sign has been taken down. (No word on what the replacement will be just yet.)

Already, the locals are complaining that the law ought to be subject to the will of the majority, rights of the minority be damned:

Another letter writer solved her own problem:

The sign has been removed. It can be taken away, but not the beliefs of many of us who attend events at North Vermillion. We can wear T-shirts with those same words on them. We can place a reproduction of the sign in the back of our truck and park it in the parking lot as one faithful patron did.

Yes! You can! You could always do that! We support you! But the school shouldn’t be in the business of endorsing the god you believe in. So good riddance to the “official” sign.

The sign never should have gone up. In fact, according to the article in The Daily Clintonian, there’s no official record of the school board ever voting for it to go up at all.

All it took for the sign to come down was the treat of a lawsuit the district knew it was going to lose.

(Thanks to Meg for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leia

    Putting the whole ‘god’ issue aside, it concerns me that they used that many dots in their ellipse. I don’t even think that is a grammatically correct place to put an ellipse. It’s a good thing it’s being taken down, hopefully the next sign they put up gets proofread.  ;)

    • Susan Creamer

      You’re correct, Leia. Even in 1967, there would have been no grammatical reason for ellipses to be used in the third “sentence” of that sign. What nincompoop left out ending punctuation (periods, perhaps) on the first two? As far as content itself, it seems completely nonsensical. “God!” Aren’t English teachers pains in the ass? heh heh

      • Mike Steinert

        Ellipsis is punctuation. An ellipse (pl. ellipses) is the two-dimensional shape created by the intersection of a plane and a cone. Using these words interchangeably is potentially very confusing to the mathematically inclined!

        Ellipsis indicates an omission. It’s difficult judge what the intent of the original author was. Perhaps she wanted to write “, get me a sandwich” at the end but ran out of room on the sign.

        • Erik

          Mathematically inclined
          was confused
          now im okay
          thanks

          • SadieD

            That was delightfully haiku-like.

    • Mike Steinert

      I hate to be pedantic but I think you meant ellipsis, not ellipse. Otherwise your comments are spot on. This sign glorifies ignorance in more than one way and should have never been displayed in a place of public education.

  • Javier

    As predicted, the locals are confusing democracy with mob rule. I’m sure a majority of certain southern states would approve of slavery, but fortunately our Constitution forbids that like it does favoring one religion over another.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003058524534 Felix Leech

      What always gets me is their constant confusion of a republic (what the United States is) and a democracy (what the United States is not). The local was right in her definition of democracy but she seems to forget that we don’t all have an equal vote in decisions. We vote for people who make decisions for us.

      They are usually quite obsessed with the Pledge of Allegiance which has is right in there: … and to the REPUBLIC, for which it stands.

      • Anonymous

        The US is constitutionally both a republic (the head of state is chosen by the people rather than by heredity, appointment, or conquest), and a democracy (the government derives authority from the people via elections or lottery). It isn’t an absolute republic since not every citizen can run for head of state and not every citizen is eligible to vote for the head of state (see the electoral college), nor an absolute democracy  since not every citizen is part of the legislature, and not every issue is subject to majority rule (see the Bill of Rights).

        • Anonymous

          I’ve understood the system to be a democratic republic.  That seems to be the most accurate phrase to use.

          • Anonymous

            Or a representative democracy as opposed to a direct democracy.

            There are certainly strong directly democratic elements in the US. But that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Like the broken initiative process in CA or electing judges

        • Rich Wilson

          It’s not a democracy in the strict sense.  If it were, then Al Gore would have won the 2000 election.

  • Abram Larson

    In fundyland, the fact that the majority cannot force the minority to believe (or at least fake the appearance of belief) in the same thing they do amounts to repression and persecution. This has came up in arguments with my Mormon co-workers who think Utah should be able to recognize LDS as it’s official religion. This to them is “State Rights.” It’s funny (in a morbid way) how every time you hear someone talk about states rights, you can be 99% certain they are about to talk some bigoted nonsense.

    • Demonhype

      Exactly.  I consider “State Rights” to be a political wedge strategy to thwart the Bill of Rights.  You see, if they can manage to turn the US into fifty little individual fiefdoms wherein the only role of the federal government is to enforce the will of the fifty individual little feudal lords and their rich cronies upon the populations of those fiefdoms, they can start declaring “official religions” and maybe even be able to enforce those anti-atheist laws on their books and maybe even make new ones, as well as laws that allow them to persecute non-Christian religious people.

      Of course, if the “wrong” believers or the non-believers became the majority, see how they’d cry.  Of course, again, once they have their fifty little Christian fiefdoms, they’d have no problem uniting the country again into a whole country and would, of course, make sure to rewrite the laws to avoid allowing any non-Christian any rights (much less power) regardless of population percentage.  What they want is to cut the country up and then sew it back together into a Christian theocratic feudal state.

      They really do not see how this works too.  They genuinely think that being prevented from persecuting others is somehow persecution of them.  They genuinely believe that when someone takes away their stick and tells them they cannot beat the other children in the head with it anymore, it amounts to persecution.  They said as much at my Catholic school when I was a kid–that Christians are a majority but are being prevented from exercising their faith, because a part of the Christian faith is to make believers of everyone by any means necessary, so being prevented from using the power of the state to force everyone to believe in (or pretend to believe in) Jesus is essentially persecution.

      Somehow, that didn’t fly with me when I was a little kid, and it amazes me  every time I realize that there are a lot of full-grown adults to whom this is perfectly logical reasoning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Reed/692599362 Paul Reed

    Why do they always think it’s just about “silencing” them? If any of them decide to wear those t-shirts or display a sign on their truck, you can guarantee it’d only be as a protest. They’d be gloating over how they’re “fighting back against the system/powers of Satan”, not even realising they coulda been doing that “fighting” the whole time. Legally. Instead. But they’re not interested in that; Just in getting outraged, apparently.

  • sporting

    I missed the Book of Athletes. Is that in one of those lost scrolls or something?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Arnica/1143470961 Paul Arnica

      Yeah I’m pretty sure its in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

      I thought Jesus and the other Jewish religious teachers frowned on sports as too Hellenistic and glorifying the body.

  • Tom

    The sincere usage of the word “outsiders” chills me.

    • SadieD

      It’s sad, but I wasn’t even shocked…Indiana, like most faux-Southern states (we have an identity crisis–the state is basically half Chicago and half Kentucky, NV is in the Kentucky half), is made up mostly of small towns, where even the next town over is viewed with suspicion…I’m sure most of the letters blamed Bloomington (three counties over and the location of IU), or, as some area residents call it, The People’s Republic of Bloomington.  We’re outsider enough for them.

      • Erik

        at least you’re better than those people from Wollerton (spits)
        [obscure]

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    What some people don’t seem to realize is that to guarantee maximum freedom , it is necessary to curtail certain types of freedom.  For example, to insure that people are free to believe what they want, it is important not to have the state dictate what the beliefs should be.  The majority has to accept that they have to sacrifice having the state champion their specific beliefs.  The state must remain neutral (or silent) on what are the correct beliefs.  Then the citizens can be free to exercise their beliefs in their own way.  As soon as the state starts taking sides, problems with tyranny can arise.  There is a certain sentiment in the religious community that they are losing the “cultural war” and they want to utilize the power of the state to bring the heathens in line.  If they are losing some kind of war, it is because their message (or beliefs) no longer have currency in today’s world.  They need to change their message (or beliefs).  They don’t need to co-op the state to force or coerce everybody to their way of thinking.

  • Oliver Kurth

    You probably meant “threat of a lawsuit”, not “treat”.

    • Anonymous

      It’s only been a few days since Halloween

  • Gerry

    I know it’s a typo but I like the irony of  “…the treat of a lawsuit the district knew it was going to lose.

  • Mimi

    Let’s ignore the state-sponsored religion issue; the content of the sign itself is pretty naive. God doesn’t let cheaters win? In what reality? God has apparently missed out on the last twenty years of Major League Baseball, College Football and the Tour de France, just to name a few.
    Many religious people take the ‘have faith like a child’ passage from the Christian Bible too literally, because the sentiment on the sign in question is indicative of a 5-year-old mentality.

    • Mike Steinert

      I’m trying to imagine how the indignantly righteous would respond to your statements. Something along the lines of “sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell?”

  • T-Rex

    I wonder if they really think their particular gawd gives a shit about their athletic program or teams? Delusional anyone?

    • Anonymous

      No wonder there is so much suffering and evil in the world – god is too busy fixing the results of every high school football game to do anything else.

      http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s2i100626

      Seriously though, it constantly astonishes me how frantic the fundies are that everyone should have Jeezus shoved down their throat,  everywhere, on every occasion – and on everyone’s tax dime. Just how secure are these people in their faith, anyway?

    • Anonymous

      This are the same people who praise gawd when they score a goal/touchdown/point

      • Mike Steinert

        Commonly known as “Tebowing.”

  • Mrs. B.

    If these same folks were greeted at Court Houses and schools and other government buildings with signs praising atheism or Islam or any religion other than Christianity they’d have a cow (probably not in the biblical sense, but I digress). 

    Regarding the letter writer who solved her own problem: this is where I just can’t rationalize the disconnect these folks seem to have over their religion. They can pray anywhere they want to. They can cover their automobiles and houses and clothing in any religious paraphernalia they want. They can walk down the street flogging themselves with thorny branches and chanting for all I care. All I ask is that they not make me partake and not make me feel as if my own government favors their beliefs over my own. And that’s what these brouhahas always boil down to — they want their religious convictions sanctioned by government entities. Too bad for them.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    Thanks for the update. I was the person who notified FFRF about the sign. I have been meaning to drive by the school to see if they had taken the sign down but haven’t had the time (I work too much and the school is a bit out of my way). I’m glad that the school decided not to fight this especially since they were obviously in the wrong.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Rev. Ouabache,
      Thank you for taking that initiative.  There are many who notice problems but pass them by, and a precious few who take action to solve those problems.

  • Grays

    Doesn’t it just suck that you can’t simply assume that everyone in your community believes in Jesus and adorn your local government buildings with explicit endorsements of your religious beliefs? The FFRF is so mean!

  • Anonymous

    You’d think these women would at least be happy that they no longer have a sign that identifies all athletes as male. But then, well, you’d have to give your head a shake. They probably feel that being all sporty is unfeminine and against God’s will. The only girls that would voluntarily choose the pitch over the kitchen are those damned (lit.) dykes, amirite?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    That’s all it took?! Apparently so.

    Well, it actually took much more than that one letter. It also took all the other challenges to public school proselytizing  by very courageous and determined students and parents, many of whom have been featured in articles on this blog.

    Their efforts and those of future challengers have a cumulative effect. Word is spreading that public school administrations and staff who flout the Constitution will regret it. I think it’s quite likely that Superintendent Mike Turner acceded so quickly to FFRF only because he had heard of those cases, and he might have been hoping (in vain) that nobody would complain. 

    I look forward to the day when correcting something of this nature is always this easy, and is taken for granted, and we have to remind each other about how it wasn’t at all easy in the beginning.

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      Do you think there’s any chance the Superintendent had secretly wanted the sign down all along, but didn’t want to risk censure and job by making a fuss about it? Then along comes a letter from the FFRF, giving him a perfect excuse.

      I can dream, yes?

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Actually, that possibility had occurred to me.  Thank you for expressing it. I’m sure there are many right-thinking people who feel caught in binds like that.

        Yes, dream, Nathan. Dreams can spark better ideas, point to unconsidered possibilities.

  • Venture Free

    It’s always amusing to witness the “backlash” against us godless heathens after something like this. They actually think they’re striking a blow against us when they do something of a religious nature in public (like wearing a religious t-shirt or praying) of their own free will.

    • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

      In other words, “Haha, stupid atheists! I’m freely expressing my religion and there’s nothing you can do to stop me!”

    • Rich Wilson

      (Just an observation, not a critique)

      I was called a ‘godless heathen’ not too long ago (in an attempt to be joking kind of  way) and got to thinking about the phrase.  In general what I found looking up ‘heathen’ is either uncivilized, or ‘religion other than Jewish/Christian/Muslim’. That is, not atheist but pagan.  I know, what’s important is what people intend it to mean.  But I think it comes from the general lumping of “God Fearing’ and “everyone else”.  Atheist, Pagan, Satanist- all pretty much the same in the eyes of the ‘God Fearing’.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X