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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

Cushing Public Schools, Cushing, Okla., is ending Gideon bible distribution after getting a Nov. 12 leter from Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel. The Gideons had reportedly visited a fifth-grade classroom at Harrison Elementary, where they discussed the bible and passed out bibles to students.

The superintendent responded promptly two days later, writing, “Please be assured that Cushing Public Schools will no longer allow representatives of Gideons International to enter classrooms to have discussions with students or to distribute bibles to students.”

The Itawamba County School District in Fulton, Miss., will not conduct bible distributions in the future. FFRF received a report that representatives from Gideons International distributed bibles at Itawamba Attendance Center to “momentarily preach the word of God” and then “asked students to raise their hands if they wanted a bible.”

Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote the district superintendent Sept. 23, noting, “Even if the students are not forced to accept these bibles, the school sends a clear message to the children in its charge who are nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community and accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’ ”

The superintendent responded Nov. 7, saying that the district “will not facilitate the distribution of Gideon bibles to fifth graders on school grounds during school hours.”

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Cop emails go secular (November 18, 2014)

A University of Colorado police officer at the Colorado Springs campus removed a religious email signature after Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel’s Sept. 25 complaint letter to the university.

“For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer,” read the officer’s email.

The university responded Nov. 18, saying that the officer met with his supervisor, who instructed him to remove the religious signature. The university also reviewed his email account several weeks later and reported that no additional religious emails were found.

A public charter school has taken steps to ensure its participation in a religious sports league remains secular, pursuant to an FFRF letter.

Seashore Middle Academy in Corpus Christi, Texas, participates in the Parochial Sports League. A local complainant forwarded FFRF a photo of students and coaches participating in a prayer circle. Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote the school Sept. 30 asking it to refrain from further participation in religious rituals at school events.

The school director responded Oct. 2, saying that a pregame prayer circle was a league requirement, but added that in the future, coaches would sit on the bench during prayers and that Seashore students could join coaches on the bench, stand to the side or participate in the prayer.

A Seminole County, Fla., employee in the water and sewer billing department will no longer include a bible verse in her email signature.

Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote the county attorney Oct. 10 of behalf of FFRF, saying, “The statements of a government employee are attributable to Seminole County. It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the county or its agents to promote a religious message because it conveys government preference for religion over nonreligion.”

The attorney replied Oct. 13 to say that the bible quote had been removed from the email signature and assuring FFRF that the county “does not, by administrative policy, countenance any dissemination of religious preference in its customer communications and is fully aware of the legal mandate for government neutrality in matters religious and nonreligious.”

Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake, Ill., resolved several constitutional violations after getting an FFRF letter.

Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote the school’s executive director July 8 to object to an assembly during the school day marking the installation of a “Freedom Shrine.” The mandatory assembly opened and closed with prayers. The Freedom Shrine was installed in a school building with a plaque engraved with the Pledge of Allegiance, on which the line “one nation under God” was in a larger, different colored and bolded font.

“Though teaching students about the history of our nation is a commendable goal, allowing an outside group to insert religious messages into a school assembly gives the appearance that PCCS endorses that group’s religious messages,” wrote Grover.

The director responded Nov. 7, informing FFRF that the school would prescreen future third-party presentations, watching for potential state/church violations. He also said the school removed the pledge plaque and held a staff meeting “to reiterate the neutrality toward religion in a public school.”

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