‘Devotional’ ended in Miss., thanks to FFRF (November 2023)

FFRF successfully was able to get a Christian “devotional” removed from a school in the Jackson County School District in Vancleave, Miss.

A community member reported to FFRF that on Sept. 23 East Central High School’s football coach invited Assemblies of God pastor Robb D. Reiser to lead a Christian “religious devotional” for students at the school’s football stadium. According to the pastor, the purpose of the “devotional” was to discuss “spiritual fitness.”

FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant wrote to then-Superintendent John Strycker about the unconstitutionality of the “devotional.” FFRF received a response from district legal representation Jack C. Pickett, who informed FFRF that each of the district’s attendance centers received updated instructions on religious ceremonies on school grounds.

FFRF also successfully persuaded the Jackson County School District to reprimand a teacher and update staff training after a middle school teacher placed “prayer cards” under students’ desks.

Pickett then detailed action that the district has taken since it received the letter from FFRF Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence.

“Upon confirmation that the conduct had occurred, the teacher in question was officially reprimanded on Sept. 13, 2023, by the principal of East Central Middle School,” Pickett wrote. “Among other things, the letter of reprimand stressed the seriousness of the teacher’s misconduct and expressly stated that teachers are prohibited from using their positions to promote personal religious beliefs. The letter also stated any expressions of religious viewpoints in the classroom and like settings is considered a constitutional violation and must cease immediately.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation