O’DONNELL, Texas – One complaint was all it took for O’Donnell High School officials to do away with the Ten Commandments.
Atheists at the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter O’Donnell Independent School District Superintendent Kathy Amonett alleging that an anonymous tipster was offended by a painting of the Ten Commandments and a Bible verse in a new common area at the school, school officials covered it up, KCBD reports.
“I made the decision to cover it up until I made a more informed decision about what I should do, because I don’t want to harm the district or cause any controversy or anything,” Amonett said.
The decision prompted hundreds of students to complain about the move on social media, many of which took matters into their own hands.
“God won today!” Nicole Hawthorne White, a counselor at the school, posted to Facebook Thursday. “We have a new building with the Ten Commandments and Isaiah 40:31 painted in the commons area. We received a letter from the FFRF demanding removal (same organization demanding removal of cross in Spur), so it was covered this morning.
“These kids aren’t having it! They tore down the cover, put up scriptures written on post it notes all over the walls, hit social media and that was just the beginning. News 34 Fox out of Lubbock was here this afternoon, if you’d like to see it on tonight’s news.”
Students also cited Bible verses they believe apply to FFRF’s attempt to eradicate God from their school.
“Be on your guard, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong – 1 Corinthians 16-13 – meaning we all just need to stand firm; the whole school came together today,” junior Katye Gruben said.
“It’s one of the big things that O’Donnell is known for, is keeping their faith strong no matter what,” junior Abby Franklin added. “So we just decided that we were going to make it known, that we wanted this as a big deal.”
KCBD reports that school officials initially covered the Ten Commandments with black paper, but students tore it down. An American flag now hangs over the display.
Junior Sebastian Pedroza pointed out that the FFRF’s intention of removing religion from O’Donnell High School is backfiring bigtime.
“Students have put versus on sticky notes just around the hallways and stuff. So two verses and commandments they’ve been complaining about turned into 70 versus,” he said.
Franklin said students respect the way Amonett is handling FFRF’s complaint, and noted that she hosted an assembly after lunch on Thursday to explain the situation.
“She’s been very calm and very loving towards all of us,” she said. “The first thing she said is, I know you’re all frustrated. I’m as frustrated as you are.”
FFRF, which exists to threaten to sue schools displaying anything with religious connotations, issued a statement from staff attorney Sam Grover.
“FFRF takes in thousands of complaints each year from people reporting religious promotion by the government in their local communities. That’s how we learned of the Ten Commandments and bible verse display in this case. We sent a letter to educate the school district on why this display violates the law and to invite them to voluntarily correct the problem. At this point, we hope that the superintendent will do the right thing and remove the religious display, which violates the separation of church and state and also the right of conscience of each student at the school. If the school district chooses to keep the display, it is exposing itself to a potential lawsuit that could cost the school district and taxpayers dearly,” the statement read.
Senator Charles Perry told KCBD he’s proud of O’Donnel students for standing up for their faith.
“Our office is working to ensure the school is in touch with the necessary experts to explain their rights and determine a plan of action,” Perry said in a statement.
Amonett said “the next step is … to do some more investigation, and get with school leadership, and the community, and the students, and we will decide what we need to do to protect the school, while also honoring it.”
“I’m proud of my kids,” she said. “I think that they have shown the kind of people that they are. They believe in the Ten Commandments and they want to stand up for it, and I’m proud of them for that.”