Mutual understanding, respect

Mr. Harpool’s letter in your May 11 edition implied that the community overreacted to the Board of Education’s order to remove Philippians 4:13 from the school’s premises. He tried to invoke the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and case law to legitimize his arguments. Here’s where the community got it right.

First, the Establishment Clause in the Constitution prohibits the government from imposing or setting up a religion and dictating that the citizens practice that religion. Secondly, the government is specifically forbidden from interfering with the public’s freedom to openly express its religious beliefs.

When Mr. Harpool asserts that our Founders’ “intended” to remove any trace of religious expression from public buildings, he is ignoring the “free exercise” portion of the First Amendment. It is well to note that there are NO restrictions as to how or where the citizens may express their beliefs. The numerous writings of the Founding Fathers confirms their mindset that the Constitution was grounded on religion. It is a historical fact that George Washington, the unanimous choice of our Founders to be our first president, set the precedent of adding the phrase, “So help me, God” to the inaugural address.

When referring to case law Mr. Harpool should look at the most recent decision of the Supreme Court which found that it is not illegal for a New York city’s council meeting to open its meetings in prayer, clearly a government function, just as the aforementioned inauguration is.

There is nothing “faith neutral” about the behavior of the anti-religion group that bullied the board to censor the verse that had been near the school gym for almost two decades. This was a classic act of intolerance and intimidation accompanied by threats of needless and expensive lawsuits. Why should the mere appearance of centuries-old scripture on a taxpayer-supported building evoke such an outcry from anyone who believes in “mutual understanding and respect”?

On that score, why demean the message of inclusion offered by the Biblical church; all of us are imperfect. All of us need constant correction; all of need constant forgiveness; all of us need constant love.

Helen Hofawger

Washington, W.Va.