Atheist group asks Knox Co. Health Department to remove Christian poem

An atheist group which advocates for the separation of church and state has complained against an East Tennessee county and asked its health department to remove a religious poem posted by an employee.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Nfutvol)Old Knox County Tennessee Courthouse. 21 April 2008.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation's East Tennessee chapter director, Shawnee Casteel, said she was taken aback to see a religious poem near an employee's desk at the Knox County Health Department. She complained about the Christian display, saying it went against the Constitution's establishment clause, and added that non-Christians might be offended by it, WBIR detailed.

However, Mayor Tim Burchett said he was not going to make the employee remove the Christian poem from her workspace. This prompted the FFRF to then forward the complaint to attorneys and to consider a lawsuit against the county.

Burchett said he was not afraid of that prospect.

"It's really time for folks who believe like I do, or believe in some sort of liberty, First Amendment, stand up and take a stand," explained the mayor.

He added: "I'm not trying to be overdramatic, but in my heart I do answer to a higher calling than a bunch of liberal judges or lawyers or what have you."

Earlier in November, East Texas Matters reported that the FFRF had targeted LaPoynor High School in Texas because of a Christian flag flying from its main flagpole. A month after the atheist group's complaint, students at the school responded. Although the flag in question was relocated to a place off campus, it can still be found in front of the high school.

LaPoynor senior student Sarah Barnes said they put two more flags on poles found outside of campus. Other kids have joined in and started flying the flags on their trucks.

While FFRF claimed that what the students did was a form of intimidation, LaPoynor mother Shaine Snyder said the kids were just defending their faith. It is also worth noting that some of the students who joined in did not have any religious affiliations, and others came from different faiths, but they still worked together for their cause.