FFRF stops distribution of student info to Catholic Church (June 26, 2012)

Bret Harte Union High School (Angels Camp, Calif.) will stop distributing student contact information to St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, which was using the contact information to solicit student attendance at its annual baccalaureate.

A Bret Harte student contacted FFRF after receiving an invitation to the baccalaureate at St. Andrew’s. FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel wrote Bret Harte Union High School District Superintendent Michael Chimente, taking issue with this constitutional violation.

In his June 18 letter, Seidel wrote that the school’s conduct “would lead any reasonable person to believe that the government is endorsing a particular religion – Catholicism in this instance – and religion over nonreligion.” He further reasoned it was “shocking that a school, entrusted with the care, education and protection of minors, would give children’s information over to an organization known to harbor and shield sexual predators.” Seidel emphasized that the “Stockton diocese, of which Angels Camp is a part, has a sordid history of priests sexually abusing minors (at least 10 priests have been accused of sexual abuse of minors, two recently fled to Ireland)” including “one of the most notorious cases of a priest raping children … Oliver Francis O’Grady, [who] confessed … to abusing at least 25 children.”

On June 26, Seidel received a call from Mr. Chimente assuring FFRF that Bret Harte would stop distributing students’ information to religious institutions, including St. Andrew’s. Mr. Chimente further assured FFRF that he would be more vigilant in upholding the Establishment Clause.

Freedom From Religion Foundation