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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

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Marshall v. City of Warren

 

American Civil Liberties Union
By Carrie Ellen Sager

A South Carolina school district has agreed to stop allowing the distribution of bibles on school property following a July 3 letter from FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott to Anderson School District One Superintendent David Havird. FFRF’s complainant reported that a man told students they could take a bible as a staffer stood by outside an elementary school library, with bibles on the table.

Elliott’s letter addressed illegal events that occurred in April, when the bibles were distributed to students at Powdersville Elementary School in Greenville, S.C.

“It is unfortunate that some adults view public schools as ripe territory for religious recruitment,” wrote Elliot. “Parents carefully instruct their children not to accept gifts from strangers. Parents also understandably become nervous when adults take an over-keen interest in providing materials to their young children without parental knowledge. As the courts have held, religious instruction is for parents to determine, not for public school educators.” Elliott noted that the distribution was not only in violation of school policy but court precedent.

Counsel for the District responded on July 21 that, “[T]he District will ensure that bibles are not made available to elementary school aged students during the school day on school premises.”

Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) and associated clinics in Bremerton, Wash., will no longer block minority religious webpages. Their Internet filtering policy, which is managed by the Enterprise Services Operations Center (ESOC) for the Bureau of Medicine (BUMED), formerly disallowed the webpages of non-monotheistic religions. 

A concerned individual was distressed to learn that the webpage for the Church of Satan was “blocked for reasons of Cult and Occult,” along with other non-mainstream religions such as Scientology, Wicca and various pagan religions. He described the discriminatory practice as “an outrage,” noting that monotheistic websites — including the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group that routinely pickets military funerals — were readily available.

FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote the NHB on May 1, explaining that, “NHB’s viewpoint discrimination and preference for Christianity over non-monotheistic religions and nonreligion in its filtering policy is illegal.”

Furthermore, his letter emphasized that the complainant knew service members who are “deeply involved” with the religions blocked by the policy.

On July 15, Lieutenant Commander David Peck reported that BUMED’s “internet filtering policy has been changed” and that he was able to access the websites www.wicca.org and www.churchofsatan.org.

Thanks to FFRF’s intervention, prayer will no longer occur at Piedmont High School athletic events in West Piedmont, Ala.

Previously, it was the practice for a Christian prayer to be delivered over the school’s public speaker system before football games. A graduate and Piedmont athletics supporter reached out to FFRF, noting that he found the prayers “very offensive to those who do not share in the belief of prayer,” and that a student should not be “subjected to ridicule for not participating.”

On March 20, 2014 FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert notified Superintendent Matt Akin of the unconstitutional actions occurring: “Not only is the District endorsing these prayers by allotting time for them at the start of football games, but it is also providing the selected student with the public address system needed to impose these prayers on all students and community members at the games.”

Markert further asserted that, “Public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.”

Akin responded on July 2 after two follow-up letters: “Beginning immediately, the Piedmont City School District will no longer allow student led prayer at athletic events.”

Midlothian Independent School District in Midlothian, Texas, will no longer display a religious dedication plaque at Mt. Peak Elementary. The two by three foot plaque next to the front entrance of the school included two Latin crosses and read: “Dedicated in the year of our Lord 1997 to the education of God’s children and to their faithful teachers in the name of the Holy Christian Church — Soli Deo Gloria.”

On June 26, FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover sent a letter to District Superintendent Jerome Stewart, explaining, “The plaque at Mt. Peak Elementary offends the Constitution. . .  since the plaque specifically promotes ‘the Holy Christian Church’ and contains a Latin phrase meaning ‘glory to God alone’ or ‘glory to the only God.’ The two Latin crosses on the plaque further solidify its impermissible purpose.”

Legal counsel for the District responded on July 17, advising that “the plaque will be removed from the Mt. Peak Elementary School as requested.

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.