Sioux Falls Freethinkers Get Student-Created Christian Artwork Removed from City Plows

| by Lisa Fogarty

Students at two different private schools in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, were asked to repaint city-owned plow blades because the artwork they contributed for a contest contained obvious Christian themes.

The city’s Paint the Plows event -- now in its fifth year -- is a popular one because it gives young residents an opportunity to exhibit their creativity by beautifying the city’s snow plows. But students at Lutheran High School reportedly violated the Constitution when they painted a plow red and wrote “Jesus Christ” on it in white script, reports Argus Leader.

Eric Novotny, a board member for the Siouxland Freethinkers, said religious messages do not belong on city-owned property. He reportedly complained to city authorities after spotting Lutheran’s plow, as well as another created by elementary and middle school students from Sioux Falls Lutheran School that featured the phrase “Happy birthday Jesus.”

“That was a clear endorsement of religion, and it was on city property,” Novotny said.

ACLU of South Dakota executive director Heather Smith defended Novotny’s position by saying, “When the speech is displayed on public equipment that will be in use and could be viewed by the public as a state-sponsored message, the speech then becomes problematic.”

Lutheran High School Principal Derek Bult said his students worked hard on their plow creation and that he felt bad for them and was upset to learn their work had been rejected.

City officials reportedly contacted both schools and informed them that their plows wouldn’t be used because of the complaints. The city stated: “discussions were held on whether the schools would be interested in creating different artwork.”

According to Sioux Falls city officials:

“For the first time in the program’s history, the City received an informal complaint from the Siouxland Freethinkers about the religious content of student artwork designed by Sioux Falls Lutheran Elementary School and Sioux Falls Lutheran High School, claiming it violated the Establishment Clause.”

The city says the high school has agreed to repaint its plow and that it is still waiting to hear from the elementary school.

Source: Argus Leader

Photo Credit: Lutheran High School Facebook via Argus Leader