Simmons Middle School in Birmingham, Ala., removed artwork depicting a Christian cross displayed outside a science classroom after receiving a complaint from FFRF. A district family contacted FFRF, noting that the painting of the cross was next to a wall with motivational posters, not with student artwork. FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter addressing the violation:
“Public Schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion. When a school puts up a Christian cross it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message, specifically a Christian message. Such a practice alienates those non-Christian students, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school.”
On June 10, the district’s attorney confirmed that the display was removed immediately after receiving FFRF’s letter.
Howe Independent School District in Howe, Texas, took action to assure that the Dallas Baptist Rec Team would not proselytize during an annual Field Day event that was for all 5th through 8th grade students at the school. A concerned parent contacted FFRF that the Field Day was being organized through Dallas Baptist University, whose stated mission is “to provide Christ-centered quality higher education.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover sent a letter to the school superintendent, informing the district that allowing a group such as DBU Rec Teams access to impressionable students is a constitutional violation:
“While DBU, as a private university, is free to train its students to proselytize to adolescents through recreational sports, Howe ISD, as a public school district, is prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the Constitution from allowing DBU Rec Teams to proselytize to its students during the school day.”
Grover explained that allowing an evangelical Christian organization access to students gives the appearance that the district endorses the organization’s religious message.
On May 15, Howe Middle School’s Principal replied to FFRF: “It has been communicated to the Dallas Baptist Recreation Team leader and will be communicated with the team Friday morning that they are at the Howe Middle School Field Day to lead the recreation games for our students and not to proselytize to our students or promote Christianity during the Field Day activities.”
FFRF’s complainant later thanked FFRF and reported that “the field day went without any issues.”
Cutter Morning Star High School in Hot Springs, Ark., will no longer include religious quotes and references in the school’s daily announcements. A parent reported to FFRF that the emailed announcements sent by a school employee often included quotes from the bible such as, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6.”
On March 20, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a strong letter of complaint to the district superintendent, explaining that the practice is unconstitutional under Supreme Court precedent. Elliott wrote, "You must make certain that staff members are not unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters.”
On May 15, the Superintendent informed FFRF that the matter was resolved a day after receiving the complaint, when staff were instructed to stop emailing bible quotes.