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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF Victories (March 2022)

No more teacher-led prayers in S.C. district 

A South Carolina school district has stopped teachers from leading prayers during school hours.

After a concerned parent reported to FFRF that multiple teachers within the Cherokee County School District had been leading their classes in prayer during lunch, including teachers at Northwest Elementary School, FFRF Attorney Chris Line wrote a letter to the district.

“Public school teachers may not promote religion by leading students in prayer, encouraging students to pray, participating in student-initiated prayer, or otherwise endorsing religion to students,” he wrote. “The district must make certain that none of its employees are unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters by leading prayer, encouraging them to pray, or setting aside time for prayer or religious instruction.”

The Cherokee County School District responded by stopping the offensive practice and reminded all of its administrators of the need to maintain a distance between state and church.

Pro-Christian film won’t be shown in school

After a student contacted FFRF to report that an Oklahoma science teacher was showing students a Christian propaganda film during class, FFRF Attorney Chris Line sent a letter to Superintendent Brian Beagles of Sperry Public Schools.

Beagles was informed that playing Christian music in class and requiring students to watch a Christian film entangled the district with a religious message.

FFRF also informed Beagles that “Facing the Giants” is a Christian propaganda film about a struggling high school football coach who inspires his team to believe in the Christian god and to use religious faith to succeed.

Counsel for the school responded to FFRF and reassured it that the issue had been addressed and will not happen again.

District to no longer teach religious song

Children at a Texas elementary school are no longer being proselytized by their music teacher after FFRF intervened.

A parent had reported that a music teacher at Frostwood Elementary in Spring Branch ISD taught a religious prayer song in sign language to first-grade students. The parent’s child signed and sung a prayer before dinner after which our complainant learned that she was taught the prayer at school by the school’s music teacher. 

FFRF let Superintendent Jennifer Blaine know that “Thank You For The World So Sweet” is an incontrovertible prayer. 

FFRF Attorney Chris Line wrote in a letter to the school district that “No public school employee may urge religious points of view on students.”

General counsel for the school district responded to Line by saying “Though the song is in a state-approved textbook, the textbook is outdated (from 2006), so the teacher agreed to discontinue the use of the outdated textbook.”

Ga. district won’t allow promotion of religion  

A school district in Georgia has stopped basketball coaches at Northwest Whitfield High School from letting outside adults proselytize students.

After a community member raised concerns with FFRF about this promotion of religion in the high school’s girls’ basketball program, FFRF Attorney Chris Line wrote a letter to Superintendent Mike Ewton, informing him that “This conduct raises serious concerns that Northwest Whitfield High School coaches are proselytizing and promoting their religion to students, both through outside religious leaders and directly to students.” 

Newton was asked to investigate the complaint and take immediate action to ensure that its athletic programs are not being used to proselytize and promote religion in violation of students’ constitutional rights

Ewton responded to FFRF’s request and said the school has addressed the situation with the employees involved. The principal also met with all other coaches at the school as well as the FCA coordinator and reminded them of appropriate procedures. 

Ohio school stops performances in church 

An Ohio School district has ceased sending its high school students to a church to perform after FFRF got involved. 

When a concerned community member reported that the Logan High School Chamber Singers performed during a religious worship service at First Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, FFRF Attorney Chris Line sent a letter to Superintendent Monte Bainter insisting that the school no longer hold school-sponsored events in churches and instead select public facilities for all future events. 

“The use of churches for public school programming is inappropriate and unconstitutional. It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a public school may not advance, or appear to endorse religion,” Line explained. “Even if attendance and participation in this event were voluntary, church performances are still impermissible.”

Legal counsel responded by assuring FFRF that the district has no scheduled performances at any church venue and all future venue selections will be approved by the superintendent.

FFRF members help cinch Michigan victory

FFRF and its members in Michigan have persuaded a county board to reverse its prayer policy and halt governmental prayer.

After multiple concerned area residents reported the Leelanau County Board was starting to implement prayers to open its meetings, FFRF contacted the board in September, urging it to honor the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government.

“Prayer at government meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote Leelanau County Board of Commission Chair William J. Bunek. 

Although FFRF received an initially discouraging response from the county, local activists attended meetings to voice their objection and changed the board’s mind. On Jan 18, the county board voted 5 to 2 to change the prayer to a moment of silence.

City stops prayers at mandatory holiday party

The city of Port Aransas, Texas, has stopped having prayers during holiday parties.

FFRF was told that the city was holding mandatory holiday parties that all city employees were required to attend. At the events, David Parsons, the city manager, was leading employees in sectarian Christian prayers. 

“Prayer and proselytizing as part of government-sponsored events is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive,” wrote FFRF Attorney Chris Line in a letter to the Mayor Charles Bujan. The mayor was then asked to stop the prayer.

FFRF has since been informed that the prayers have ended.

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