A group focusing on defending the separation of church and state has written to the University of Florida to advise that an inscription from the Bible on one of its buildings violates the constitution.
The archway at Heavener Hall displays an extract from Micah 6:8.
“He has shown you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” it reads.
“The verse inscribed on Heavener Hall is religious, preaches obedience to the Christian God and must be removed,” wrote Andrew Seidel, staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), in a letter to University of Florida President Kent Fuchs, according to the Alligator.
Seidel insisted that as a public institution, University of Florida was violating the separation of church and state.
“The Supreme Court has said time and again that the ‘First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,’” Seidel added in the letter. “Public schools, as a part of the government, may not promote, endorse, or advance any religion.”
The FFRF’s intervention has won the support of a student group on campus.
“The explicit instruction to walk humbly with your god almost puts it out to seem that the university is saying that to be a member of the community, to do good in academia here, you must believe in a god,” Michael Johns, president of Gator Freethought, a group which promotes open discussion about religion, commented to the Alligator.
“So we’re not attacking Christianity by saying this,” he continued. “We’re simply asking that the university be respectful towards all of their students and abide by these laws that have been established to ensure at public institutions, especially at a university, that you can feel safe and secure and welcome, regardless of your beliefs.”
Jarvis Henderson, who is a campus minister with the group Campus Alive, backed the university.
“It’s something that’s motivational, inspirational, and it’s probably something that we hear every day and don’t realize it comes from the Bible,” he stated with reference to the inscription. “I wouldn’t even be mad if they put something from the Quran.”
University spokeswoman Janine Sikes said in a statement that the letter from FFRF was under consideration.
“The University of Florida is committed to complying with the laws that apply to public institutions,” she wrote.