When it comes to public school assemblies, evangelists need not apply. Thanks to a letter from Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert, Signal Mountain Middle/High School is on notice that future school assemblies cannot use warnings about alcohol as pretext for Christian proselytization.
Our complainant alerted us to an assembly at Signal Mountain Middle/High School (Chattanooga, Tenn.) that featured a speech by Dave Walton. The school brought in Mr. Walton to speak of the dangers of alcohol but a cursory search of his website, www.braggingforjesus.org, reveals his ulterior motives. In her July 26, 2012, letter to the school district, Markert wrote that “given the speaker’s over and primarily Christian message, it is troubling that the district would schedule this speaker for the assembly.” She identified such assemblies as “subvert[ing] constitutional mandates” with the purpose of “inject[ing] Christianity into students.”
Markert’s powerful letter demanding positive action garnered a quick response. The attorney for Hamilton County Schools wrote on Aug. 1 that many faculty members were also concerned that the presentation was inappropriate and that the presentation resulted from a “gross failure” to screen the speaker. Hamilton County Schools have acknowledged the grave error and their attorney calls this “a good story for training.”