FFRF challenges school Commandments and other complaints

A large granite monument bearing the Ten Commandments that sits outside Valley High School in New Kensington, Pa., has got to go, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott told the New Kensington-Arnold School District in a March 20 letter.

“Courts have continually held that public schools may not display religious messages or iconography,” Elliott wrote.

“Any student will view a permanent 6-foot-tall monument in front of the school entrance as being stamped with the district’s approval,” he added.

Elliott, who is co-counsel in an ongoing lawsuit in Virginia on a similar issue, Doe 1 v. School Board of Giles County, said that dispute has been extremely disruptive to the school environment and could have been avoided. “It is unfortunate that some educators feel it is their place to instruct other people’s children on religious edicts. FFRF is committed to defending parental and student constitutional rights.”

FFRF will sue if necessary to get the monument moved, said Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. FFRF’s complaint has generated widespread news coverage.


Appeals court hears oral arguments

Attorney George Daly, represented FFRF as local counsel in March 20 oral arguments in its appeal over the Spartanburg County School District 7’s (Spartanburg County, S.C.) policy granting academic credit for religious release-time classes held at a church next door to Spartanburg High School.

The case is before the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

FFRF first filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in 2009 on behalf of two district families with schoolchildren. It challenged the policy’s constitutionality, arguing that close cooperation between the district and religious educators had the primary effect of advancing religion. The school also excessively entangled church and state by granting a religious institution the power to give public school credits and grades.


Ministry profits mightily from assembly

In the wake of publicity and complaints, Superintendent Jim Stanton of Dunkerton [Iowa] Community Schools got a verbal lashing from parents at a school board meeting March 13 about an assembly for junior high and high school students presented by the Christian ministry group You Can Run But You Cannot Hide and its musical group Junkyard Prophet.

Stanton apologized and agreed to make changes to the assembly procedures for the school in Dunkertown, a town of about 800 people. The assembly the week before included images of aborted fetuses and derisive comments about gay people.

FFRF received a copy of the assembly contract in response to a request for records from the school. The contract required the school to pay $2,000 to You Can Run But You Cannot Hide.

The contract specifies that boys, girls, and teachers would be separated for a second portion of the program. The contract says, “The boys will be doing a huge exploration of music, dealing with different artists, what they stand for and don’t stand for, their lyrics and more.”

“The girls will deal with issues such as the beauty of being a bride, purity, your heart, knowing whom you follow and more.” KCRG reported that the girls’ program included a statement that girls would have “mud on their wedding dresses” if they weren’t virgins and that they should assume a submissive role in the household.

The boys were reportedly given the group’s theocratic view of the Constitution during a portion of their program. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation