Atheist group threatens suit over 'angels' on memorial to beloved teacher

A West Virginia middle school took down the crosses from a memorial to a beloved teacher, but is standing firm on the angels etched into the stone, despite an atheist group's threat to sue on constitutional grounds.

Joann Christy's 26-year career educating children at Ravenswood Middle School came to a tragic end in 2004, when she died in a car accident. But her loved ones and the community she had served sought to remember her with an engraved, stone memorial near the school's entrance.

"There's so many kids that came through this school that were affected by her death, that were affected by her teachings, and now we're just trying to keep her memory alive here," Tracy Sadecky, a family friend, told the station.

But more than a decade later, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation wants the memorial gone, claiming its presence on public grounds violates the First Amendment. The foundation criticized the display as a promotion of religion that infringes on students rights. reported that the foundation wrote a letter to the school requesting an investigation into the memorial and the "multiple Latin crosses" near the school's entrance.

Christy's family, apparently in an attempt to resolve the situation, reportedly agreed to the removal of the crosses, but left the angels in memory of Christy, who had a collection of angel figurines. The school has a meeting scheduled Thursday night to discuss the memorial issue and others that reportedly riled up the foundation, including a Nativity scene.

A lawyer from the Wisconsin-based nonprofit told the station that as long as the angel represents Christy and not a religion, there may not be a legal issue.

Still, the legal threat did not sit well with some in the community, who said the memorial is merely a remembrance of a teacher, not an endorsement of Christianity.

Charles Hicks, the pastor at Christy's church, remembered her as a devoted Christian who died in a car crash after a Bible study meeting at the church.

"It is a remembrance of who Joann Christy was," Hicks said. "And it is hard to separate the good that she did and her devotion to her Christian faith."

WSAZ pointed out that the atheist group did not have an issue with the school's mascot: a red devil.