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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

Broome High School students in Glendale, SC., will no longer perform in churches, thanks to action by FFRF.

A concerned member of the community informed FFRF that on May 11 the school chorus sang at the First Baptist Church of Cowpens during the church’s morning worship service.

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a letter on May 19 to the superintendent of Spartanburg School District 3, explaining why holding school-sponsored activities in churches, especially during services, is a bad idea from the outset.

“In addition to being surrounded by religious iconography, students were exposed to, and likely became participants in, a Christian worship service. This outcome is entirely inappropriate during a school-sponsored activity. Please note that it would not cure this constitutional violation if students were merely given the option to ‘opt out’ of participating in this performance. Courts have summarily rejected arguments that voluntariness excuses a constitutional violation.”

On Aug. 11, an attorney representing the district responded that it agrees that public high school students should not be asked to participate in any activity that takes place during a religious service, where that activity is directly sponsored by the public school which they attend.”

She advised that the district will not require students to perform in connection with any religious services. The district’s counsel added that she had met with all district administrators to give a presentation including “instruction regarding the Establishment Clause and how it applies to public school students and religion.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its local chapter, the Central Florida Freethought Community, have halted invocations at Winter Garden (Fla.) City Commission meetings. 

On Aug. 28, Mayor Rees and the police chief ejected a local activist and member [who FFRF  pseudonymously calls John Thoreau] from the meeting for refusing to stand for the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. FFRF wrote a letter protesting this appalling violation of the Constitution.

FFRF asked the Commission to “get rid of prayer altogether” and asked Mayor Rees to explain at the next public meeting “that citizens are within their rights to remain sitting for the pledge and that it does not reflect a lack of patriotism.” 

The commission held a special meeting today and voted 3-2 to substitute a moment of silence for an invocation. Mayor Rees voted to keep the invocation, one of only two commissioners to do so. Four CFFC members, including Thoreau and chapter leader, David Williamson spoke out against the prayers. 

“Thoreau” told FFRF Attorney Andrew Seidel, who wrote FFRF’s letter, that he is “very pleased with the commission’s decision.” 

Seidel added, “We’re happy that the commission has decided to be inclusive instead of divisive. Religion has no place in the halls of government.”

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of Atheist Alliance International.