If you were to walk into Coffee High School in Georgia, you’d come across these banners promoting positive qualities… and including specific Bible verses to back them up.
There’s absolutely no reason for the blatant promotion of Christianity right there — as if kindness, love, or peace weren’t possible without God’s input — and American Atheists has now sent multiple letters trying to get to the bottom of these signs.
There’s been no real answer. Just stonewalling. But the administrators did say that the banners were donated by a coach at the school affiliated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (If you look closely, you can see the group’s logo on the banners.)
Assuming that there was an open forum at this school, American Atheists’ legal team offered to pay for another set of banners, this time without the Bible verses.
- Courage: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear; not absence of fear.” — Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson.
- Citizenship: “A republic is not an easy form of government to live under, and when the responsibility of citizenship is evaded, democracy decays and authoritarianism takes over.” — Earl Warren, A Republic, If You Can Keep It.
- Honesty: “Whoever is careless with truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.” — Albert Einstein, as quoted in Albert Einstein: Historical and Cultural Perspectives.
- Fairness: “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good–and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” — Abigail Van Buren, “Dear Abby.”
- Self-Respect: “If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Humiliated and Insulted.
- Cooperation: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead, as quoted in Curing Nuclear Madness.
- Compassion: “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other–not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” — Nelson Mandela, Healing & Reconciliation Service, Dec. 6, 2000.
- Tolerance: “Tolerance, like any aspect of peace, is forever a work in progress, never completed, and, if we’re as intelligent as we like to think we are, never abandoned.” — Octavia E. Butler, “NPR Essay — UN Racism Conference.”
- Creativity: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use it, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou, Bell Telephone Magazine, Vol. 61, No. 1.
- Patriotism: “I love America more ￼than any other country in the world and, exactly for this ￼reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” — James Baldwin, Collected Essays
All of those suggestions were rejected.
I don’t know if there’s a student at this school willing to serve as plaintiff, but this is a legal disaster for the District if it proceeds to court. There are simple options here: Just take down the signs. Or put them back up without the Bible verses. Or accept the atheists’ banners.
They haven’t said yes to any of those options. It’s like they’re begging for a lawsuit, which seems like an irresponsible move by the school’s leaders. They’d rather fight for Bible verses than do what’s best for students.