Religious lettering that was uncovered during a renovation of a centuries-old Virginia courthouse recently left atheists up in arms, with activists demanding that the historic lettering be removed or covered up.
According to the Nelson County Times, government officials found the words, “Virtus—Keep God’s Commandments—Veritas” last winter while renovating an old Nelson County courtroom that dates back to 1810.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, responded to the discovery of the writing by calling the display an “overtly religious proclamation” and demanding that it be covered up. The Nelson County Board of Supervisors reportedly voted that, for the time being, removable panels be placed over it.
The lettering is painted above columns that are inside the building, with the plan to cover it reportedly being crafted as a temporary solution that will allow officials more time to explore the matter. The FFRF said that the wording had been concealed for 50 years and that the recent construction once again made it viewable.
“The simple concept is to attach across the face of the balcony a track into which removable panels can be inserted,” the memo from the supervisors reads. “This will allow the Board time to consider what actions might be taken, such as a study to determine the date of the legend, preservation alter-natives, or any other matters in connection with the wording.”
The FFRF sent a letter in May asking for the removal of the lettering.
“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government advancement and endorsement of religious messages,” attorney Patrick Elliott wrote. “Given the size of the ‘Keep God’s Commandments’ lettering and its prominent placement, a reasonable observer would view it as an endorsement of religion by the county.”
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF, called the bizarre spat “an unconstitutional situation” and urged the supervisors to “go ahead and make their move permanent.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.
(H/T: Nelson County Times)