Jesus Flyer Calls for School District Policy Change, FFRF Charges

Madison, Wis. Violation

"Plant the Seeds of Faith in Jesus in Your Child at our Sunday School."

(MADISON, WIS.) The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking the Madison Metropolitan School District to alter its laissez-fair take-home flyer policy, following complaints about a religion-drenched flyer sent home on behalf of a church in the backpacks of elementary-aged schoolchildren.

The bright gold full-page flyer by Grace Lutheran Church announced "Back to Sunday School" and a "Sunday School Rally" on Sept. 9, which included a sign-up form, and stated: "Plant the Seeds of Faith in Jesus in Your Child at our Sunday School."

"Don't Neglect the 3 R's: Religion, Relationships and Rejoicing!"

Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor, whose watchdog group has strongly objected in the past to the District's take-home policy, wrote Supt. Art Rainwater: "This practice is objectionable on so many counts."

Gaylor cited overworked teachers being forced to distribute religious literature, small children being confused between public school and religious functions, parents of diverse backgrounds "opening backpacks to review school papers and being assaulted with a religious message," and taxpayers subsidizing the time-consuming distribution.

"The District should not act as a PR machine for nonschool enterprises. Let these churches and groups do their own legwork: pay for advertising, leaflet neighborhoods, buy the available lists from the Department of Public Instruction."

The Foundation cited teacher estimates that the typical elementary-school teacher distributes up to 100 flyers a week, amounting to 4,500 to 5,000 flyers every year, on top of necessary paperwork for the District and schoolwork.

"This is not only costly in dollar amounts, but it reduces instruction time and wears out (and undoubtedly offends) your professional staff," Gaylor wrote Rainwater.

The Foundation formally asked MMSD to amend its take-home flyer policy to restrict this service to school-sponsored or co-sponsored events.

Gaylor said many school districts around the nation have gone this route to avoid mixing church and school, to protect students, parents and teachers, and to keep the focus on the educational component that is the purpose of public schools.

Read FFRF letter to Supt. Rainwater (PDF)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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