New Mexico school removes religious mural after complaint

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CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — A complaint prompted a public school in eastern New Mexico to remove a mural containing a dove, an anchor and a Bible verse.

The mural at Clovis High School Freshman Academy was painted over last month after the school received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a watchdog group on issues of the separation of church and state, The Eastern New Mexico News reported (http://bit.ly/2wUTWkV ) on Tuesday.

The mural that was painted in 2013 contained a quote from Hebrew 6:19, "Hope anchors the soul."

Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Jody Balch said he erred on the side of caution and had the mural covered hours after receiving the letter.

"We understand there is a separation of church and state," Balch said. "We try to adhere to the regulations set forth by the state and feds as to the things that are appropriate and not appropriate."

The letter to the school was sent after the group received a complaint from a parent of a student who objected to the display.

"Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools," the group said in the letter. "This display alienates those nonreligious students, families, teachers and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school."

Members of the New Mexico Legislative Prayer Caucus sent a letter to the school to counter the group's claims. The letter stated the group did not understand that references to Christianity and religious symbols on public buildings and monuments "are simply an acknowledgment of religion's rich influence on the development of this nation and its institutions."

The Prayer Caucus letter stated that it would support the school should the mural be reinstated.

Balch said he does not have plans to reinstate the mural.

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Information from: The Eastern New Mexico News, http://www.easternnewmexiconews.com


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