- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2014

Atheists may complain, but Sioux Falls, S.D., officials say they’re not going to remove Jesus messages painted on the front of city-owned plows. Instead, they’re going to add on a disclaimer to make clear the Christian lines aren’t officially endorsed by the government.

The messages — painted “Jesus Christ” in the same script used on Coca Cola cans and bottles, and against a red background — were put on the city plows by students at two Christian schools who were competing in the annual “Paint the Plow” event, The Blaze reported. The plows also included messages that said “Happy Birthday Jesus,” and that quoted John 1:14: “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”

Siouxland Freethinkers board member Eric Novotny complained, saying to the Argus Leader that the message was “a clear endorsement of religion and it was on city property.”

But the city refused to paint over the messages and instead adopted a different plan — adding a disclaimer to all the pieces of equipment that were part of the “Paint the Plow” event.

“All 27 of the painted plows will be used this winter for their intended purpose — to provide safe travel to the driving public during snow and ice events,” a press release from the city read, The Blaze reported. “To reinforce the city is not endorsing any particular message or viewpoint expressed on any of the student artwork, each snowplow also will carry a disclaimer.”

The disclaimer reads: “The City of Sioux Falls encourages creativity. This ‘Paint the Plows’ work is created by students. Any message or views expressed are not those of the City or endorsed by the City.”

City officials are hoping the disclaimer will appease the atheist group.

“Both sides of the issue have legitimate concerns, and we analyzed every possibility to respect all viewpoints,” said city attorney David Pfeifle in a statement reported by the Blaze. “Our wish is to maintain the artwork while also respecting the rights of those who brought the complaint.”

The atheist organization has yet to respond to the disclaimer decision, The Blaze reported.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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