Foundation Brochures Hit Schools (September 1995)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s campaign to counter intimidation of public school officials by the Religious Right is off to a resounding start.

So far public school administrators in Mississippi, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Texas have received an educational mailing from the Foundation, including a copy of its brochure, “The Case Against School Prayer” and a cover letter urging officials to keep religious divisiveness out of their schools.

In early August, the Foundation contacted every public school principal and superintendent in Texas–reaching nearly 8,000 public school officials in the nation’s second largest school district. The mailing received widespread press coverage, including an Associated Press article by Peggy Fikac, “Group cites bible to argue against prayer in schools.”

“Even Jesus was against school prayer, a group including atheists and agnostics contends in a brochure mailed to Texas school administrators urging strict separation of church and state,” read Fikac’s news story.

The brochure quotes the injunction attributed to Jesus in Matthew 6:5-6 warning worshippers to pray in secret in “thy closet.”

News of the Foundation’s mailing brought a quick denunciation from Texas Rep. Al Edwards, a minister, who complained that the Foundation was “using the Scripture for their own personal benefits.”

The minister had sponsored a bill to mandate a moment of silence for meditation to start the Texas school day. It passed in amended form permitting school districts discretion to decide whether or not to impose a moment of silence. However, Edwards, on a radio show with a Foundation staff member, admitted his ultimate goal is to impose prayers in public schools.

“We all know, as President Clinton recently pointed out, that students are already free to pray individually in public schools. But once prayer crosses the line from an individual, private exercise to an organized, vocal group recitation dictated by the majority, it then becomes a forbidden establishment of religion,” wrote Foundation president Anne Gaylor to public school officials.

“Prayer becomes a weapon to impose majority beliefs upon the minority, and upon the captive audience of school children.”

Numerous right-wing Christian groups routinely send letters to public school officials across the nation, pushing commencement prayers, “student-led” prayers and other forms of organized worship in public schools.

“Our material may be the first time a public school administrator has received anything supportive of religious neutrality in our public schools,” Gaylor pointed out.

“Contrary to the claims of the Religious Right, piety is not synonymous with virtue. Students should judge people by their actions, not by what religion they believe in or how publicly or loudly or persistently they pray.

“Introducing religion into schools builds walls between children who may not have been aware of religious differences before. It can create tremendous trauma for the child who is not of the majority religion in the community,” said Gaylor.

The Foundation office has received several irate calls from principals asking to be “taken off your mailing list.” One Clarksdale, Mississippi official even passed the mailing onto a local pastor who sent the Foundation a religious rebuke. Another religionist administrator, who clearly had not taken the time to read any of the literature, mailed back the reply which is reproduced on this page.

The so-called “Religious Equality Amendment” is now on the front burner of the Congressional religious right, turning the school prayer issue into a national debate.

Foundation members are encouraged to mail “The Case Against School Prayer” to local school boards and officials with their own educational letters. The brochures are available in packs of ten for $3.50ppd or 100 for $20ppd through FFRF, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701.

Freedom From Religion Foundation