BY HEMANT MEHTA DECEMBER 17, 2019
The Somerset Independent School District in Texas has removed a Creationist display from an elementary school after prodding from the American Humanist Association.
The issue revolved around a bulletin board at Somerset Early Childhood Elementary school that featured the line “In the beginning God created…” over an image of the planet.
After hearing from a local parent, the AHA’s Legal Director Monica Miller sent the district a letting warning them of the constitutional concerns with the Christian display — and this letter to the principal and superintendent didn’t pull any punches.
Because this school-sponsored Biblical creationism display emphatically violates the Establishment Clause, you should expect litigation to follow unless corrective steps are taken immediately. Indeed, because of the well-settled nature of the law on this issue, you should anticipate being held personally liable for damages.
It is my expectation that the religious display will be taken down immediately in light of this courtesy warning. We will not sue if the display is promptly removed. To avoid litigation brought by entities or individuals other than AHA, I recommend that you enact a policy to ensure this will not happen again.
Don’t mess with a constitutional expert.
The display came down days after that letter was sent, but look at how the district is reacting to the letter. They’re complaining about how mean it is, rather than acknowledging how problematic the display was.
“We decided to go ahead and take it down, but we’re not happy about having to do that,” [public information officer Maury] Vasquez said.
“We’re disappointed with the process because Somerset ISD is a place where we embrace diversity, we’re open to dialogue and we’re sensitive to other people’s viewpoints,” Vasquez said. “We really would have liked to have a discussion instead of just having a threatening letter.”
At the same time, Vasquez said, “Somerset ISD is a place that, well, unabashedly, we keep Christ in Christmas. But this display had been here since the first day of the school year and we didn’t have a single complaint so we’re kind of shocked.”
What’s the point of a “discussion” here? There’s no compromise to be had, and the facts were all laid out in the letter. The district was wrong, the AHA pointed that out, the district fixed the problem, end of story.
Vasquez is just mad he couldn’t delay the display’s takedown.
He even admits the district promotes Christianity with that whole “we keep Christ in Christmas” nonsense — as if the district proudly ignores Jews in December — so the letter was clearly necessary.
So too bad if he’s not happy. He should be sending Miller a Christmas card for saving the district money since it had no leg to stand on in a courtroom.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)