FFRF stops assistant principal from proselytizing (March 24, 2014)

An assistant principal at Andalusia Middle School in Andalusia, Ala., will no longer be allowed to “witness” to students.

FFRF received a complaint that the assistant principal regularly proselytized students in his office. He used a social networking site to advertise the message that the school conducts prayers to Jesus before sporting events and that he personally witnesses to students and encourages bibles in his office.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a March 4 letter to Superintendent Ted Watson explaining why these are serious and egregious violations of the Constitution:

“It is not a violation of [the assistant principal’s] free speech rights to require him to stop the practice of proselytizing students in his office. [The assistant principal] is exposing a captive audience of students to this religious message because of his position as public school assistant principal. Religion is a divisive force in public schools.”

Seidel’s letter informed the district that it is illegal for public schools to organize, sponsor, or lead religious messages at school athletic events, and that the distribution of bibles on school grounds is unconstitutional even during non instructional time.

Superintendent Watson responded on March 24, saying the principal had admitted to overstating religious activity at the Middle School, “I assure you that we do not hold teacher, administrator or student led Bible, Koran, Torah, or any other religious studies in our rooms or offices. I will also assure you Bibles are not distributed at Andalusia Middle School nor do we have teacher, staff or administrator led prayer at sporting events.

“[T]hank you for making us aware of this situation,” the District added. “It has facilitated a review of the law as it pertains to the establishment clause within our school system. We strive to teach our students to be law-abiding citizens and it starts with the example we as adults set.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation