Atheist Group Threatens Legal Action Over 'In God We Trust' Signs at Arkansas Schools

Group Sent Letter to All Arkansas Superintendents

BAUXITE, Ark. - Pencil hit paper at Pine Haven Elementary in Bauxite on Friday as students answered questions about American history.

A few yards away, superintendent Matt Donaghy  stares at his inbox facing a question that could change the course of Arkansas history.

"I don't plan on responding to the e-mail, but I do plan on doing what is right," Donaghy says.

Donaghy is referring to an e-mail that landed in superintendent inboxes across the state. A lawyer representing the American Atheists, a national group, threatened public schools with legal action if they adhere to a new law in Arkansas: the new law requires donated 'In God We Trust' signs to be displayed in every classroom.

"He brought up some good points about it going against the First Amendment," Donaghy says.

A church in Sardis plans to donate signs to Bauxite classrooms. For Donaghy, this is where the crayons turn gray.

"We always follow Arkansas law and we always follow the Constitution," Donaghy says.

Nick Fish serves as program director for the American Atheists group. He spoke with us via Skype.

"Our goal is not to go to court on this," Fish says. "Our goal is to inform the school districts about what their obligations are under the Constitution."

Fish says several superintendents replied to the e-mail. Responses ranged from hostile to compassionate. One of them read in part: "May God have mercy on your soul."

Donaghy added: "This has put us in a bit of a bind because we're not exactly sure."

For now, the legal back-and-forth looms. potentially erasing a new law only months after it hit the books.


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