The Freedom From Religion Foundation, responding to the concerns of a parent, alerted a public school district to a serious state-church violation at one of its schools in Fishers, Ind.
Teachers at Sand Creek Intermediate School organized a fundraiser called “Jar Wars,” between fifth- and sixth-grade homeroom classrooms, with proceeds designated for the Nicaragua Resource Network (NRN). The school advertised NRN as “a nonprofit organization that is trying to improve education in Nicaragua.”
FFRF’s complainant, however, discovered with one search of NRN’s Web site that its real mission is “To fulfill (obey) Jesus’ command to love God and to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ by giving of our time, talents, and resources to address the spiritual, physical and educational needs of impoverished children and families in Nicaragua.”
In her Feb. 19 letter, Rebecca Markert, FFRF staff attorney, pointed out: “While it is laudable for a public school to encourage young students to become active and involved in their community by volunteering and donating to charitable organizations, the school cannot use that goal as an avenue to fund a religious organization with a religious mission.”
She cited concerns about the flier misleading parents and students and suggested that, to comply with constitutional mandates, “Jar Wars” should benefit a secular charity.
The district responded by distributing an e-mail to staff declaring the new recipient of the “Jar Wars” donations would be the secular Hope for Haiti through the American Red Cross.
The e-mail said, “Staff and students will continue to support humanitarian efforts locally, statewide, nationally and internationally through [not-for-profit] nonsectarian organizations.”