Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 10 December 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF victories

FFRF stops school assembly prayer

Zachary Community School District in Louisiana promised to refrain from prayer at district events after receiving a letter of complaint from FFRF.

On Oct. 17, Zachary High School held a district-wide assembly to celebrate its recent ranking in the state’s accountability plan. Before the start of the assembly, parents and students were asked to bow their heads in prayer as an invocation was given over the PA system.

Patrick Elliott, FFRF staff attorney, sent a letter to Superintendent Warren Drake on behalf of a concerned parent. Elliott requested that Drake commence an immediate investigation into the illegal prayer. Elliott pointed out that prayer at a school-sponsored event violated the district’s own policy, which states that “no student attending the school shall be required to participate in any religious activity at school.”

In a Dec. 2 response, Drake said he apologized “if anyone was offended, as this was not our intent and [we] will refrain from saying a prayer at any such event in the future.”

Texas school drops addiction to Jesus

The North Lamar Independent School District in Paris, Texas, promised to end school-sponsored religious messages at school assemblies after receiving a letter of objection from FFRF.

At an assembly in October, North Lamar High School Principal Paul Allen discussed drug abuse by high school students. Allen recited passages and teachings from the bible, telling students that “Christ died for the just and the unjust.” Allen also implied that “people that don’t have God in their life, and people that don’t believe in something more” are manufacturing or selling addictive substances.

On Nov. 16, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote a letter to Superintendent James Dawson, informing him that, “It is coercive and inappropriate for a school official at a school function to promote religion to a captive group of impressionable students in attendance.”

In his Nov. 21 response, Dawson said, “Since the assembly, I have had discussions with administrative staff on the topic and offer assurance that there will be no more school-sponsored religious messages at assemblies in the North Lamar Independent School District.”

FFRF advocates for nonreligious seniors

The Senior Center at Euless Family Life Center in Texas no longer hosts a religious display, thanks to FFRF.

The religious display included a Latin cross with patriotic symbols and a U.S. flag under a sign that read, “When you can’t see God’s hand, trust his heart.”

The Family Life Center is a public facility. On behalf of several local complainants, FFRF Staff Attorney Stephanie Schmitt wrote a Nov. 22 letter to Recreation Center Supervisor Heidi Taylor. In her letter, Schmitt noted the religious display, “is particularly offensive to veterans and other seniors who do not believe in the Christian god.”

Seven days later, Recreation Superintendent Mike Davenport confirmed that the display has been removed.

Gideons shown door after FFRF letter

On Nov. 4, members of Gideons International were allowed to enter Liberty-Eylau Middle School in Texarkana, Texas, to distribute bibles to fifth graders at lunch.

After being contacted by a concerned parent, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote a Nov. 11 letter to Superintendent Nick Blain, informing him of the constitutional violation.

In a Nov. 22 response, a school attorney told FFRF that the district had already stopped distribution of “unauthorized materials on its school campuses. . . . If you receive information that there have been some unauthorized distribution of bibles at any of the Liberty-Eylau school campuses, please contact me immediately.

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