A four-panel mural containing a biblical verse in the Findlay Municipal Building has drawn the attention of an activist organization based in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent letters to Findlay Municipal Court Clerk David Spridgeon and City Law Director Don Rasmussen, claiming a large mural that references Psalm 91 violates the U.S. Constitution and needs to be removed.
The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages, FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert wrote in the letter.
Spridgeon said he received the letter about two weeks ago and forwarded it to Rasmussen, who had also received a similar one.
Rasmussen said the groups complaint will be reviewed but the mural will remain, at least for now.
Theyre entitled to their opinion, but well take a look at case law to see where were at with it, he said. Its not going be an easy review.
Rasmussen said the six-by-four foot mural has been in the municipal building since at least 2012, and had been donated to the city by the woman who painted it.
Rasmussen said he was not aware of any previous complaints about it.
Its really pretty nicely done, theres a eagle flying through the sky, with a verse from Psalms at the bottom, he said.
The letter to Spridgeon states the group was contacted by a concerned citizen, who advised them of the mural, which features the phrase, Under His wings shall you find refuge Psalms 91.
The letter mistakenly claims the mural is on the wall of the Findlay Municipal Court, which is located on the second floor of the building. However, the mural is actually in a hallway on the third floor, near the entrance to the administration offices, according to Director of Court Services Dave Beach.
Beach said the mural had never been in municipal court.
Its always been on the third floor as far as I know, Beach said.
The location may not matter to the FFRF, since it is in a government building. The First Amendments Establishment Clause prohibits government from establishing a religion and from favoring one religion over another, or from favoring religion generally over nonreligious beliefs.
It is inappropriate for the county to display this religious message on the wall of the Findlay Municipal Court because it conveys government support for religion, Markert said in the letter. A reasonable observer would view the text as an endorsement of religion by Findlay. The mural calls for viewers to seek refuge in the Christian God.
The letter also claims that the display makes those who are not Christian feel like outsiders.
The municipal court serves all citizens regardless of belief or non belief, and with this display, Findlay appears to be preaching to citizens required to come to the courthouse, Markert wrote.
The messages alienates the 24 percent of American adults who are nonreligious. It excludes non-Christian residents of Findlay and expresses a preference for the Christian faith in a government building responsible for administering and upholding our laws.
According to the groups website, the FFRF is the nations largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate. It has 32,000 members and has 20 chapters across the country, including more than 800 members and a chapter in Ohio.