Freethought Today · May 2014

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

It really can pay to complain

This is a letter to FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel that the local complainant agreed to share (with identifying information removed to preserve anonymity) after FFRF legal staff successfully resolved several state/church violations. A teacher was disciplined and the school adopted a policy requiring staff to sign an acknowledgment that they must remain neutral toward religion at work. 

FFRF really relies on its members and supportive nonmembers to keep us in the loop about potential violations.

 

Dear Mr. Seidel:

You can’t imagine how excited and relieved I am to read your email! I don’t think I can truly express it in words, but I’m going to try.

Being one ordinary parent at a small school in a conservative state, I didn’t have much hope initially that your group would take on our cause. To my knowledge, this is the very first time in [this school’s] history that a staff member has been disciplined for foisting religious beliefs on students. You are correct that victory is the only word that fits!

This victory is one that I hope will send a message loud and clear — to those on staff and in our parent community who feel they have tacit permission to violate the rights of others because they suffer no consequences for doing so — that [the school] will not tolerate the violation of the law and the rights of students.

I am happy to report that I attended a school music program on Tuesday night held in [the auditorium now owned by a church], and I saw that it was prepared in the manner it should have been prepared all along. All religious images were covered, all religious signs and literature were out of sight, and for the first time I felt that the venue was a neutral space that showed respect for all parents and students in attendance. This is huge

The progress shown in that area, and the fact that [the teacher] will be held accountable and disciplined for his actions, speaks volumes to parents who have become discouraged and simply numb to the prevailing culture at [the school]. Our school community has lost many families who have given up on seeing any change or who were ultimately worn down from a continual battle that got them nowhere ([my friend and her] family among them).

I hope what you have accomplished on our behalf will stop other good families from walking out the door. When issues are addressed swiftly and decisively, parents can feel confident that their concerns will be heard and the rights of their children respected. 

This whole issue forced me to become more outspoken and more involved than I ever planned or wanted to be at my kids’ school. It forced me to fight against the urge to be a “pleaser” and avoid making waves. It illustrated to me that avoiding conflict at the expense of doing the right thing is not a strategy I can accept.

I have long been resigned to “going down swinging” for this cause. You can’t imagine how good it feels to experience a win for a change. Although the words are inadequate, on behalf of many other parents who shared my concern, we give you our most sincere thanks. You are awesome!

Best regards,

[Satisfied complainant]

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