Alternative sign created by community as Wythe County school board decides options after prayer plaque removed

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) People in Wythe County hope to replace a prayer plaque that was removed with their version of a historical marker.

A plaque was removed from Spiller Elementary School earlier this year after the school board received a note from the Wisconsin based Freedom From Religion organization calling it unconstitutional.

It read, "OUR FATHER: WE THANK THEE FOR THIS FOOD. BLESS IT TO THE NOURISHMENT OF OUR BODIES AND OUR LIVES TO THY SERVICE. AMEN."

The community objected its removal.

People in the Wytheville area are now coming up with their own plans.

"It's just not right. This is my backlash, personally," said Linda Meyer, a Wythe County resident.

Meyer presented an alternative plaque to the Wythe County school board Thursday evening in hopes it will hang in place of the one that was removed. The words, she says, are straight from the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation organization that supports religious freedom.

It reads, "From 1958 to 2017 – more than 58 years - there hung on this wall a plaque with the phrase ‘Our Father: we thank Thee for this food. Bless it to the nourishment of our bodies and our lives to Thy service. Amen.’ The phrase would have been constitutional in a public school in 1791, when the First Amendment was adopted; just as it was when the plaque was put up in 1958. The plaque remains constitutional even now, under an originalist understanding of the First Amendment. Much like the National Motto, “In God We Trust,” this simple prayer reflects a tolerable acknowledgment of God in the American public sphere. Due to threats from an atheist organization, the plaque was removed in 2017 and placed in safekeeping. When the U.S. Supreme Court restores a sane Establishment Clause jurisprudence, the plaque will return to the wall of this school."

She contacted the organization herself and explained the situation.

"Liberty Counsel sent me back the text saying we can in fact restore the plaque if it is a historical marker," Meyer said. "We are a Christian nation and this is part of our history and it's very important."

Meyer considers her version a historical marker, that explains the plaque that hung in this school for nearly 60 years. The original plaque with a short prayer blessing food now sits in storage.

School Superintendent Jeff Perry tells us, "We are working with the local ministers and church leaders to do some positive and meaningful things for the school. The actions we are discussing are legal, practical, and will make a difference."

Perry told us in September, after the plaque was removed, that the law is clear. The school board has made no official plans to put something in its place.