Fight Over Midlothian Plaques Heads to School Board

Midlothian neighbors are pressing the school district not to remove plaques with Christian words and images.

A large group of residents appeared at the Midlothian ISD Board meeting Monday night to speak out, some wearing church T-shirts.

Neighbors who like the plaques believe it is a matter of their freedom to keep signs of their faith in their school.

The Rev. Bennie Leonard of Liberty Baptist Church said neighbors have been holding prayer meetings and rallies to support the plaques.

“We’re just wanting to practice our faith here in the Bible Belt, and being able to express our faith is very important in this community,” Leonard said.

His church sits across the road from Mountain Peak Elementary School.

Along with Long Branch Elementary, the two Midlothian schools have marble plaques near the entrance with crosses and blessings for teachers from the “Holy Christian Church.”

The plaques were installed when the schools opened 17 years ago and some neighbors have grown quite fond of them.

But someone complained about them to the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin. In June, the group asked the school district to remove the plaques.

“Our organization is about keeping religion out of the government,” FFRF Attorney Sam Grover said. “Because these plaques are on the school building, they’re not individual speech. They’re government speech, and that is restricted.”

Since word of the request has spread, supporters of the plaques want their local school board to stand with them.

“I think that if there’s any way that there’s an effort that could be made to keep those there, I think that would be a good thing in this community. I think people would be supportive of that action,” Leonard said.

Midlothian School Superintendent Dr. Jerome Stewart said in August that the plaques would remain in place while the district consults with outside lawyers.

An item on Monday night’s board meeting agenda said “Consider Hiring School Attorney Firm,” but spokesperson Jana Pongratz said that was a separate measure initiated before the plaque controversy and no board action on the plaques was scheduled Monday.

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