School Lists “Belief in God” As Part of Mission Statement

A public school district in Uniontown, Ohio, erred by listing “belief in God” in its mission statement as a district “value,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a complaint.

The Foundation sent a letter Aug. 26 to Lake Local School District after one of its Ohio members alerted FFRF, which has about 350 Ohio members and 14,000 nationwide.

The inappropriate wording was in­clud­ed in the August 2009 issue of Blue Streak News, a district publication.

In the Foundation’s letter, Staff Attorney Rebecca Kratz said no public employee may urge religious points of view upon students. “Listing ‘belief in God’ as an important value violates the First Amendment because it imposes religious sentiments upon students and their parents within the school district.”

An earlier district mailer, sent to all postal customers, had the same language. The complainant also told the Foundation that Lake Local had the same words on the home page of the district’s Web site but has removed it. However, “belief in God” is still included on Lake Elementary’s site.

The violation is flagrant and egregious, Kratz said. “The School Dis­trict’s promotion of religion over non-religion impermissibly turns any non-believing Lake Local School student, parent, teacher, or staff member into an outsider.”

The Lake Local Schools’ mission statement, as published in the school’s Blue Streak News, says: “We value responsibility, honesty, respect, integrity, commitment, belief in God and religious freedom, our community, our partnerships, and every person as a unique individual with the ability to acquire and apply knowledge.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation