Although the kids may be out of school, the Freedom From Religion Foundation knows that the Constitution doesn’t take a vacation.
Hazelwood Elementary School’s Summer Program in Haywood County, N.C., includes gardening crafts and games. However the school also scheduled trips to Vacation Bible School at a local Baptist church this year and in years past. The school arranged to allow transportation of students to a Baptist church to participate in Vacation Bible School for morning activities for a week (June 18-22, 2012), even after a shocked parent had complained and been assured it would not happen. Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott objected to the school’s entanglement with a bible school in a strong letter to the district’s superintendent, Anne Garnett. In his letter, Elliott explained that the school’s summer programming, including its registration forms, program handouts, and advertisement on the school website, all served to “facilitate student recruitment for religious indoctrination.” In citing legal precedent (including FFRF’s victory in Doe v. Porter), Elliott concluded, “The school’s promotion and coordination of a religious program is unconstitutional and cannot continue.”
Patrick Smathers, attorney for Haywood County Schools, wrote on June 21, “I have advised the Superintendent and Principal of Hazelwood Elementary School that in my opinion the coordination and advertising of a Vacation Bible School with a summer school program is improper. Though the Haywood County School System takes pride in complying with all laws involving religion, this matter unfortunately occurred.” The Superintendent “will implement plans to assure that future summer program . . . will not coordinate or advertise Vacation Bible School activities.”