FFRF’s ‘first priority’ is to warn against religious clubs in Alabama school (Oct. 29, 2012)

Austin High School (Decatur, Ala.) teachers will no longer sponsor the First Priority Club (FPC), thanks to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The FPC is a Christian, non-curricular club that describes itself as a “vision with a comprehensive plan of action. . . to reach and disciple a generation with the . . . message of Jesus Christ.” A photo caption in the local paper described the relationship between the school and local churches: “Austin High School students, teachers and youth pastors join hands and pray at the closing of the First Priority club meeting Tuesday.” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote an Oct. 19 letter to Superintendent Edwin Nichols objecting to the school’s endorsement of FPC.

“A public school may not endorse or provide preferential treatment to a Christian club. While students may organize religious clubs, we are concerned that FPC is not ‘student-inititated’ or ‘student-run.’ Students might presume that this Christian club is sponsored by the school because of the apparent role of school faculty in organizing club activities,” wrote Seidel.

Nichols told Seidel via an Oct. 29 letter that he would “review with the teacher providing custodial oversight of this student non-curricular group and make sure that they understand their parameters as related to the legal ramifications cited in your letter.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation