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Texas student's complaint prompts removal of 'God Bless America' display

By The Associated Press,
freedomforum.org staff

11.14.01

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EL PASO, Texas — A West Texas high school's marquee with the words "God Bless America" on it was removed after a senior suggested that it could be offensive to some.

The sign at Eastwood High School now reads, "United We Stand."

Assistant Principal Mike Olivas said in yesterday's editions of the El Paso Times that the school decided to change the sign to make sure everyone at Eastwood High had a voice in school activities.

The West Texas episode comes even as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee considers a resolution calling for "God Bless America" displays at public schools. The non-binding resolution passed the House of Representatives 404-0 on Oct. 16.

The signs have become popular since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I personally had no problems with 'God Bless America,'" Olivas said. "The senior who wrote the letter is a very intelligent, articulate student who felt that some students were offended by the 'God Bless America' message and suggested we be more inclusive."

The identity of the student who wrote the letter was not released.

Olivas said he did not believe that "God Bless America" constituted a violation of the First Amendment.

The newspaper also reported that a group of Del Valle High School students had brought national attention to the West Texas incident. The television journalism students staff El Paso's CNN Student Bureau.

"The students at Del Valle have raised a legitimate issue," Melvin Straus was quoted by the newspaper as saying. Straus is University of Texas-El Paso political science professor emeritus and chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union's El Paso chapter.

U.S. political leaders have been inconsistent about separation of church and state, he told the El Paso Times. He cited the practice of a chaplain opening sessions of Congress, references to God in the national anthem and the Supreme Court ceremony in which the bailiff calls out, "God save the United States and this Honorable Court."

Sister Helen Santamaria of El Paso's Roman Catholic Diocese told the newspaper that the United States "has taken the separation of church and state way beyond what it was intended."

"We can't erase God," she was quoted as saying. "We all believe in God. We can't separate God from our spiritual, mental and physical beings."

Related

Federal judge backs school in spat over 'God Bless America'
Artist, 12, wanted elementary school to use her yearbook design with patriotic message; school said no.  04.17.02

Lawmakers bless 'God Bless America' displays
House passes nonbinding resolution urging public schools to post message as a show of patriotism.  10.17.01

City official orders 'God' removed from firehouse's Sept. 11 memorial
Murfreesboro, Tenn., city manager says 'United We Stand' would be more appropriate than 'God Bless America.'  12.19.02

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