FFRF halts two state/church violations in Tennessee’s McNairy County Schools

FFRF stopped the practice of broadcasting prayers over loudspeakers during athletic events and hosting student-led prayers at graduation ceremonies in a Tennessee school district. (The Foundation previously had a strong victory late last year ending loudspeaker prayers at high school athletic events in Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) The Foundation complained twice (first in November and again in December) in letters to the director of schools for the McNairy County School district, located in Selmer, Tenn. In her first letter, Rebecca Markert, FFRF senior staff attorney, warned the district that “it is illegal for a public school to organize, sponsor, and lead prayers at public high school athletic events . . . because it constitutes a government-endorsement of religion, which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” She noted that the Supreme Court has struck down prayer at public high school graduations, and that “it is no defense that graduations are events at which participation or attendance is voluntary. Courts have summarily rejected arguments that voluntariness excuses a constitutional violation.” FFRF received a reply [Jan. 27, 2011] from the director of McNairy County Schools: “I have addressed the issues raised in your letter with the appropriate personnel at Adamsville Junior/Senior High School and instructed such personnel that school-sponsored prayer is prohibited at school events, including athletic events and graduation ceremonies.” — Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation