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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Tennessee district stops assembly proselytizing

FFRF has convinced a Tennessee school district to implement a corrective plan barring proselytizing assemblies from taking place.

A concerned student of the Oneida High School in Huntsville, Tenn., reported to FFRF that the school had allowed a local pastor to preach and evangelize to students at a mandatory assembly this past fall. Students at the school are required to attend monthly “character assemblies,” which are typically secular in nature. Last November, however, FFRF was informed that a local pastor began an assembly that was supposed to be on the secular topic of “friendship” by asking students to repeat the phrase, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” He went on to instruct the students to turn to the person seated next to him or her to inform each other that Jesus loves them.

FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line wrote to Oneida Special School District (OSSD) Director of Schools Jeanny Hatfield on June 7 to warn against the inclusion of religious proselytizing in future high school assemblies.

In a letter received July 6, the legal counsel representing the school district informed FFRF that Hatfield and Oneida High School Principal Kevin Byrd understand that the district may not endorse religious practices and will comply with state and federal laws going forward.

“In an effort to preserve the integrity of our ‘character’ program and ensure that our students are protected from religious proselytizing the OSSD will require that an outline of the content of all presentations be submitted to the principal or his designee for review and approval prior to the presentation,” states the letter.