February 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

Officials at a public school in Somerset, Texas, reluctantly removed a display that promoted creationism after being told that it violated church-state separation.

The display, which was posted in the library of Somerset Early Childhood Elementary School, included artwork depicting the Earth with the words “In The Beginning God Created ...” In December, a Christmas tree had been placed in front of it.

The American Humanist Association (AHA), acting on a complaint from a parent, wrote to school officials and advised them to remove the display.

“Our office was recently notified of a flagrant constitutional violation that is occurring under the authority of your school and school district,” AHA Legal Director Monica Miller wrote in a letter to school officials. Miller noted that a parent felt “affronted” by the display.

“This is a pretty egregious violation,” Miller told KSAT-TV in San Antonio. “I haven’t seen that many this flagrant in a long time.”

Maury Vasquez, the district’s public information officer, said officials decided to remove the display under duress.

“We decided to go ahead and take it down, but we’re not happy about having to do that,” Vasquez said.

He added, “We’re disappointed with the process because Somerset ISD is a place where we embrace diversity, we’re open to dialogue and we’re sensitive to other people’s viewpoints. We really would have liked to have a discussion instead of just having a threatening letter.”

Vasquez then said, “Somerset ISD is a place that, well, unabashedly, we keep Christ in Christmas. But this display had been here since the first day of the school year and we didn’t have a single complaint so we’re kind of shocked.”