A wall of the Somerset Early Childhood Elementary’s library is bare after district officials took down a religious display on Monday due to a complaint from the American Humanist Association.
Maury Vasquez, the district’s public information officer, said the decision to take down the display came after officials consulted with their attorneys on the issue. Vasquez said the display has been up since the beginning of the school year and they never received a complaint about it.
“We decided to go ahead and take it down, but we’re not happy about having to do that,” Vasquez said.
While a parent may not have complained to the district, at least one complained to the association. On Friday, American Humanist Association Legal Director Monica Miller sent a letter to Principal Sara Gonzales and Superintendent Dr. Saul Hinojosa.
The association is a national nonprofit group that fights for secular government and litigates church and state separation cases.
“Our office was recently notified of a flagrant constitutional violation that is occurring under the authority of your school and school district,” Miller wrote in the letter. She also wrote that a parent felt “affronted” by the school-sponsored display.
“This is a pretty egregious violation,” Miller said Monday in an interview with KSAT. “I haven’t seen that many this flagrant in a long time.”
The display in question included large font that read, “In the beginning, God created...” with an illustration of the Earth below it.
“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,” Vasquez said. “We really would have liked to have a discussion instead of just having a threatening letter.”
At the same time, Vasquez 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.”
Miller said the association’s goal was not to file a lawsuit, but just to correct something that’s been established through case law.
What grade did your school get from Texas Education Agency?
“Frankly, you know, we have better things to be doing,” Miller said. “Like I said, my letter couldn’t be more clear about what the precedent says.”
By taking the display down, the district avoids a lawsuit that could have been costly to taxpayers.
Somerset Early Childhood Elementary educates students from pre-K through Kindergarten.