An atheist group is threatening to sue an Ohio town for displaying a mural with an eagle and a Bible verse on the side of a municipal building.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a cease and desist letter to Findlay, Ohio, on February 1, arguing that the mural violates the Constitution because it “conveys government support for religion.”
The group particularly took issue with the phrases “Under His wings shall you find refuge” and “Psalms 91”—both references to scripture in the Bible.
A group of local artists painted the mural in 2011 to symbolize how the community is protected. The mural’s message coincided with the yearly theme of the National Day of Prayer at the time.
Professional artist Cathy Schock of Hancock County came up with the idea for the mural called “Under His Wings.” Schock based the mural on Psalm 91:4, which states, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge,” Fox News reported.
Schock told Fox News that she envisioned the project would foster a sense of collaboration instead of division between the communities.
FFRF said it was taking action on behalf of a “concerned citizen,” although city officials say no individual has complained to the city about the mural. City officials added that FFRF’s complaint does not accurately identify the mural’s location.
FFRF, however, claims that the mural needs to be removed because it is on city-owned property.
“The city needs to remove it,” said Rebecca Markert, FFRF’s legal director. “This is government property and it doesn’t belong there.”
Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik defended the mural, saying it would not be removed unless a court ordered the city to remove it.
“Maybe the Atheist Club in Madison, Wisconsin has nothing better to worry about but our mural in Findlay,” Mihalik told Fox News. “But our community is strong because we have belief. We believe in a power greater than ourselves that promises a brighter day is ahead despite our individual struggles.”
Markert, however, argues that the city’s decision to display the Bible verse is illegal because it appears the state is sponsoring a particular religion.
“A reasonable observer would view the text as an endorsement of religion by Findlay,” Markert wrote in the group’s letter.
This is not the first time the atheist group has filed suit against a town because of a mural. In 2016, the group demanded that a Texas public school paint over a mural of the Ten Commandments and a Bible verse from the Old Testament because the display violated “the separation of church and state.”