Ravenswood Teacher Memorial

FFRF objects to religious memorial honoring deceased teacher

Ravenswood Teacher Memorial

Atheist group calls for the removal of a high school memorial in West Virginia that carries images of a cross and angels.

Controversy is brewing in a West Virginia neighborhood as the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist group, has cast it sights on symbols religious images on a high school memorial of a dead teacher, asking that it be removed.

The group served a letter to the authorities of Ravenswood Middle School, on whose premises the controversial memorial is erected, complaining that the memorial poses “serious constitutional violations.”

The controversial monument was erected to commemorate the life and legacy of Joann Christy, a teacher who taught at Ravenswood Middle School for more than 25 years, who was killed in an automobile accident back in 2004.

Present in the school’s garden is the monument which bears a display of crosses, Bible verses and angels in honor of the late teacher.

Saying they don’t know the purpose of the memorial, attorneys with the FFRF concluded that the inclusion of religious images gives the appearance that the school puts a preference on Christianity.

In the letter addressed to the school, Patrick Elliott, a FFRF staff attorney, stated that “the First Amendment mandates that schools cannot advance or promote religion, so that’s what this display is doing.”

However, the group has been met with stiff resistance from residents of Ravenswood, West Virginia, with Tracie Sadecky, a friend of late Joann’s family, saying that the monument is but a way to keep the teacher’s memories alive.

“There’s so many kids that came through this school that were affected by her death, that were affected by her teachings, and now we’re just trying to keep her memory alive here,” Tracie said.

In some kind of compliance with FFRF’s directive, Joann’s family has gone ahead to remove the crosses. However, they have decided not to remove the angels, saying that they are a representation of who late Joann was, as the teacher collected them herself.

“She collected them, she had them in her classroom, she had them in her house, so it’s something we thought would be a great addition,” Tracie said.

What remains unclear at the moment is if the angels left on the monument will continue to constitute an issue for the atheist group, however, Elliott did make some efforts to clear the air on that by saying that “if there is an angel, that is more so a representative of that particular person. I’m not sure there would be a legal issue with that.”

This will not be the first time that the Madison, Wis., based atheist group will be going after a Ravenswood school over religious based issues like this one. They similarly filed a complaint about a live nativity display that was allegedly included in a Christmas program at a Ravenswood High School last year.


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