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October 9-11, 2015

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

The new administration of Worth County Schools in Sylvester, Ga., will there’s no repeat of a religious assembly condoned by the previous administrators.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote Superintendent Barbara Thomas on Jan 30, 2013, after receiving a complaint that an assembly included the principal prompting a student to lead a prayer followed by a speech by a pastor who talked to students about “finding Jesus Christ.”

After unproductive correspondence with Dr. Thomas, who stated that “it was the consensus of the Board [of Education] that no one’s rights would be infringed” by the imposition of religion at the assembly, a new superintendent responded to FFRF’s complaint on Nov. 20. She stated that she could not confirm that the assembly had occurred, but that she was “most concerned about this incident,” and that she discussed it with the district’s principals and gave them guidelines about religion in public schools.

R.J. Fisher Middle School’s graduation ceremony will no longer be held at Calvary Church after the Freedom From Religion Foundation lodged a complaint.

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote the Los Gatos Union School District superintendent on June 16, 2014, informing her that holding public school graduations in houses of worship “is unconstitutional because it forces graduating students and their family and friends wishing to participate in, view, or celebrate the graduation to enter a church to do so, even if the selected church espouses a religious ideology or belief to which they may not adhere.”

Superintendent Diana Abbati responded Nov. 20, 2014, writing that the district would be moving its 2015 graduation ceremonies to “a venue not affiliated with a religious entity.”

Thanks to efforts by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, teachers in Chandler Public Schools will not create religious projects with their students in the future.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter to the district in 2013 after learning of an auction where two items for sale were religious art projects created by classes of students: a poster with a bible quote, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” and a poster that read, “Wash your hands & say your prayers cause Jesus and germs are everywhere.”

“Chandler Public Schools has a legal duty to ensure that its teachers and administrators are not unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters,” wrote Seidel.

After several follow up letters, Seidel received an email on Nov. 20, 2014, from a new superintendent who assured FFRF he did not anticipate the recurrence of the constitutional violation.

Anniston High School’s football coach will no longer organize and lead his team in prayers after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A local news report noted that Coach Eddie Bullock asked for a “prayer leader,” a student who led the other players in prayer. Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote Superintendent Darren Douthitt of Anniston City Schools on Oct. 31, writing that “Anniston City Schools must take action to ensure that coaches do not lead, organize, invite, encourage, or participate in prayers with their teams.”

“We have informed our coaching staff that they cannot initiate a prayer by the embers of our athletic teams. It is also our plan to remind all faculty and staff of all our schools that they cannot initiate nor participate in student prayer,” wrote an attorney for the school district in a Nov. 17 response.

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

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