FFRF ends Arkansas school’s sponsorship of baccalaureate service (July 19, 2013)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation caused an Arkansas school to disassociate itself from future religious baccalaureate services after the school officially invited graduating seniors to attend the May 19 service.

FFRF was contacted after Dardanelle High School planned a baccalaureate service for the graduating seniors at a local church.

The school allowed a minister to hold a 15-minute mandatory assembly where he told students about the service. The school advertised the service in their official list of important “senior activities” and schoolteachers promoted the program by including information about it in school announcements.

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott contacted Dardanelle Public Schools Superintendent John Thompson on June 26, requesting the district not promote, coordinate or organize the service.

“This raises concerns that there is official school support for the baccalaureate by the school faculty and administration,” Elliott wrote.

Thompson responded to Elliott on July 19 that less than 20% of graduating seniors attended the 2013 baccalaureate service.

“We will take steps to completely disassociate the district and school from the services,” Thompson wrote. “There should be no perceptions of any role played by the school, no sponsorship, and no student has been or will be compelled to attend such.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation