FFRF initially wrote in early March to Indian Creek School District about a March 19 event at Hills Elementary School in Wintersville, Ohio, where representatives from Samaritan’s Feet were scheduled to give shoes and socks to students and then wash the students’ feet.
The washing of feet is a ritual steeped in religious significance, FFRF pointed out. The act is modeled after John 13:1–17 in the New Testament, in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and instructs them to wash each other’s feet. Samaritan’s Feet is a Christian missionary organization.
If the district allowed these outside adults to have this “spiritual” interaction with students, then Samaritan’s Feet would have essentially bought access, at a school-sponsored event, to proselytize the children in the district’s care, FFRF underlined.
“It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion,” Line wrote to Superintendent T.C. Chappelear. “In Lee, the Supreme Court extended the prohibition of school-sponsored religious activities beyond the classroom to all school functions, holding prayers at public high school graduations an impermissible establishment of religion. Even if this shoe giveaway takes place outside the normal school day, it still violates the Constitution as a school-sponsored religious activity.”
The district cancelled the event as a result of FFRF’s reasoning.