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October 9-11, 2015

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

FFRF had been trying to obtain a response from Portland State University in Oregon about its hotel bibles since its original letter of complaint in February 2014. "If guests want to read this religious text during their stay, they should do what everyone else does, travel with the book they want to read. The state need not, and cannot, provide religious literature to citizens," said Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel.

With help from FFRF's Portland chapter and the PSU Secular Student Alliance, FFRF was able to confirm that the bibles had been removed from rooms, despite the university's unwillingness to admit it had taken action.

Oklahoma's Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) is taking steps to eliminate unconstitutional religious training materials after receiving an FFRF complaint. A peace officer in training told FFRF that during training, instructors and materials repeatedly promoted religion.

Course materials contained statements such as, "While there are differences between the various faiths, we still are a people of God. This idea is the basis for the common bond of all people." A section focusing on ethics encouraged peace officers to dedicate themselves before God to their chosen profession.

In an Oct. 7 letter, Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote, "CLEET must revise its training materials and lectures by removing suggestions that belief in God is an essential component of being a competent peace officer."

Grover corresponded with an attorney representing CLEET who said he was taking steps to remove religious content, adding that instructors were warned about expressing their personal religious views in class.

FFRF succeeded in getting a Ten Commandments display removed from the Pinevale Elementary School library in Valdosta, Ga. Staff Attorney Sam Grover in an Oct. 24 letter to Valdosta City Schools wrote, "Any student will view a Ten Commandments display in a school as being endorsed by a school."

After a follow-up letter, Superintendent E. Martin Roesch phoned Grover to say that the display had been removed.

After initially refusing, Kenneth Cooper Middle School officials in Oklahoma have removed a poster called "Faith in America" featuring two children with their hands clasped in prayer in front of an American flag.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel first wrote to Putnam County Schools about the image in August. "The meaning could not be more clear," Seidel wrote, "real American children pray."

School district attorney Anthony Childers responded that the district had received no complaints in the 18 years the poster had been up and claimed it was not proselytizing. "At this time, we do not believe that the image violates the Establishment Clause and the District will not agree to remove the image from its office."

In a rebuttal, Seidel noted that the fact that the display had been up so long "only serve[d] to make the violation more egregious." The claim that the poster was not religious was "at odds with common sense," he said.

FFRF's local complainant reported that "Faith in America" has been swapped out for a George Washington portrait.

FFRF learned that Tropic Isles Elementary School, North Fort Myers, Fla., planned a fifth-grade field trip to a church which was hosting a walk-through play entitled "Drug House Odyssey."

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote the school district on Feb. 12 informing them that the field trip was unconstitutional: "Taking public school students to a church, a place covered with religious iconography, is an endorsement of that church's religion."

Lee County Schools Superintendent Nancy Graham responded Feb. 16, stating that she shared FFRF's concern that the district's participation "not present any impression that the School District is attempting to indoctrinate students into a religious belief."

The district chose to postpone the event and consider an alternative site, she said.

Bennett Elementary School in McKinney, Texas, removed hand sanitizer bottles that displayed the Lord's Prayer and the logo of a church. "Religion is a divisive force in public schools," wrote Staff Attorney Sam Grover. "Though the school may accept donations from religious entities such as churches, the school still must comply with the Establishment Clause in its use of those items."

FFRF's complainant reported on Feb. 18 that the prayers had been removed and the church logos replaced with school logos.

Eastern Local School District, Reedsville, Ohio, removed two religious posts after a car accident claimed the life of a former Eastern High School student. The posts called for "prayer warriors" to "lift all of [those involved in the accident] up in prayer."

Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote Superintendent Michele Filon a letter on Feb. 12. "We are sensitive to the fact that sharing such tragic news can be a difficult and emotional task. Expressing condolences over this situation was correct, but we wish to remind the District that it must ensure that it remains neutral on matters of religion." FFRF received word Feb. 19 that the posts had been removed.

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

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

 

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FFRF is a member of Atheist Alliance International.