SEARCY, Ark. — Bible verses and gospel quotes that once donned the walls of the Searcy High School choir room are there no more.
The school took the posters down after receiving a complaint they were “unconstitutional” from national non-profit Freedom from Religion Foundation last November.
“The establishment clause mandates that government entities, and that includes public schools, have to remain neutral in respect to religion,” explained FFRF attorney Chris McNamara. He could not disclose who sent in the photos to tip his organization off, but did say school administrators reassured him teachers were later counseled on what they should and should not display in the classroom.
McNamara says FFRF was just recently notified of the posters’ removal, after he sent Searcy a follow up memo at the end of January.
While FFRF is “extremely pleased” that the verses and quotes came down, 2013 Searcy grad Savanna Moore had a very different response.
“It kind of hurts my heart,” she said. Moore spent all four years of high school performing in Searcy’s choir and called it the highlight of her time there. “I would not wanted to be anywhere else in the school, [choir] was my favorite time of the day.
Moore explained religious references were the norm during her choir days, as many songs they sang were hymns.
“Sometimes they were in other languages, but they were hymns,” she said. “We would look up what they meant and she would tell us all the time what they meant when we sang them.”
She says the neither the verses nor hymns ever put her class out of harmony.
“I even knew some people in choir who did not believe in Christianity, but I never heard a complaint about it, ever,” she said.
As fond choir memories still ring strong in Moore’s heart and soul, she expressed sadness for her former teacher.
“I believe that as a teacher, you express to the students who you are,” she said. “I don’t think you should lie about who you are.”
Attempts to contact Searcy’s choir director Tina Niederbrach were never returned. Superintendent Diane Barrett did confirm the posters were removed in November after receiving FFRF’s first complaint letter.