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October 9-11, 2015

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has ensured that adults will no longer participate in student religious activities at Bath High School in Lima, Ohio.

FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to Bath Local Schools on Oct. 16 after a local complainant forwarded a media profile of the high school’s “team chaplain,” who, along with coaches, participated in prayer with students. “It is illegal for a public school to organize, sponsor, or lead religious prayers at public high school athletics,” wrote Markert. “It is also inappropriate for a public school to offer religious leaders unique access to befriend and proselytize students.”

Superintendent Dale Lewellen responded Oct. 23: “I recognized that the constitutional line may have been crossed and have taken appropriate steps to ensure it will not recur. Religious proselytization and/or participation by staff in their school capacities are not consistent with my aim to comply with applicable constitutional and statutory requirements.”

Greater Albany Public Schools in Oregon will no longer give preferential treatment to the Good News Club over other after-school groups, thanks to a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The district partners with community organizations for early release day programs, including a community program, Boys and Girls Club, and Good News Club, a Christian organization. FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel formally complained on Sept. 11, pointing out that the website linked directly to Good News Club’s registration forms, but did not link to other alternative organizations. Only Good News Club’s forms were sent home with students the first week of school and made available at schools. Good News Club forms were turned in to the school office.

“By extensively coordinating the Good News Club’s signup, the District is providing a benefit to the Good News Club that it does not afford other secular programs, indicating District endorsement of the Good News Club’s Christian message,” wrote Seidel.

The complaint was forwarded to FFRF from its Portland chapter. Cheryl Kolbe, chapter president, informed FFRF on Oct. 29 that the website had been modified so that parents and guardians were instructed to contact Good News Club directly as they directed for other groups, making the District’s policy even-handed.

Administrators at Azle (Texas) Independent School District cancelled a ministry-affiliated assembly scheduled for Oct. 29, after being contacted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The assembly was to be put on by a group, Seven at Schools, which is affiliated with the religious ministry Youth Alive North Texas, a “strategic outreach organization that maintains the vision of reaching every student in every school across the region and beyond with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ,” according to its website.

Despite the group’s claim that the assembly would have no religious content, a Seven at Schools representative told FFRF’s complainant that the personal stories in the presentation “would include religious themes, including discussion of God.”

FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover sent the district a letter on Oct. 28 asking the district to ensure the presentation would be secular. “Though teaching students about things like character building, substance abuse, peer-pressure, and bullying is a commendable goal, allowing a youth ministry access to your student body gives the appearance that the District endorses those speakers’ religious messages,” wrote Grover.

Acting on the advice of counsel, the district took even stronger action to ensure its students would not be proselytized and canceled the assembly entirely, according to local news reports. The Seven at Schools representatives gave a religious talk to Azle community members at a local church that night.

Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School in Honolulu will no longer allow a partner organization to pray with students after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent them a letter.

The school holds “Family Reading for Success” events regularly. An attendee informed FFRF that a recent meeting opened with a sectarian prayer initiated by a nonprofit organization, Kula No Na Poe Hawaii, which partners with the school for the events.

“It is unlawful for any school-sponsored event, such as a meeting dedicated to student literacy, to include prayer,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Seidel in a letter to the Hawaii State Department of Education on Oct. 31.

The school’s principal responded the same day, informing FFRF that he had followed up with the community partner organization and reminded them that all school-sponsored events must remain prayer-free.

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

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